If someone else is controlling your spending or limiting access to your money, that’s financial abuse.
This can have devastating consequences, both financial and emotional. For example, a victim of financial abuse could have their credit score adversely affected, and also be left with mental health issues such as low confidence and feeling isolated.
It also means that support is out there for victims of financial abuse, such as domestic abuse charities and helplines.
So if you believe someone you know is being abused in this way, it could be worth letting them know that help is available and that the law is on their side.
What does financial abuse look like?
Financial abuse can take many forms, including:
- keeping an eye on your bank accounts, so the abuser can monitor everything you’re purchasing;
- being asked to prove what you’re buying, perhaps by showing receipts and bank statements;
- stopping you from accessing your accounts;
- withholding money with a view to stopping you seeing friends and relatives;
- taking control of your account, perhaps by making sure they have your log-in details or even adding their name to your account;
- taking out credit in your name without asking or telling you;
- convincing you to take out loans or cash in your name and leaving you to pay off the debt afterwards;
- putting you under pressure to amend your will;
- pressuring you to arrange for certain payments, such as benefits, to be paid into a bank account you can’t access.
Financial abuse can be an insidious crime, starting with controlling actions that are so subtle they might not be perceived as such, but it is abuse nevertheless.
We should also stress that anybody can be the victim of this crime, as it’s not confined to any particular age, gender, ethnic group or socio-economic background.
Similarly, anyone can be the perpetrator of financial abuse, as long as they’re in some position of trust, so the abuser could be, for example, a partner, a family member, or carer.
That, sadly, goes some way towards explaining just how widespread financial abuse actually is.
According to research by credit management company Lowell, 37 per cent of people have either been a victim themselves or know somebody who has.
Nearly one in five respondents revealed they had experienced financial abuse either in a current or past relationship. Of this group, 21 per cent of women said they had been a victim, compared with 15 per cent of men.
Worryingly, the same survey revealed that 15 per cent admitted that they don’t know the signs of financial abuse to look out for.
That suggests far more education and awareness is needed to explain what financial abuse actually is, what it can entail, and perhaps most importantly of all, what help is out there for those affected.