Signs of financial abuse can take many forms. According to the Money Advice Service, it could be that somebody is taking money from you, controlling your finances or trying to take control of your bank accounts. This could be done through coercion or without your knowledge or permission.
Financial abuse doesn’t have to be extreme to be considered abuse. Somebody regularly taking £50 from your bank account is just as guilty as somebody exerting power over your financial decisions or paying for things using your credit card without permission.
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What are examples of financial abuse?
This type of abuse can happen in families, couples or between generations (often against the elderly). Because there are many ways financial abuse can occur, it’s sometimes hard to recognise right away.
Common signs of financial abuse include someone:
- Using your financial assets for their own benefit without your consent
- Asking to borrow money and never returning it
- Ruining your credit history by using your credit cards or taking out loans in your name and then not repaying them
- Constantly asking you to cover their own bills or debts
- Creating fake offers or scams so they can get money out of you
How do you identify financial abuse of the elderly?
According to the Law Society, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse. This is often due to mental health or cognitive impairment issues. Unfortunately, these issues can open the door for more direct abuse that is rarely questioned by the person being abused.
Common signs of financial abuse of the elderly include someone:
- Overcharging for services or products. For example, buying products on behalf of the elderly person and then asking for more money than the products actually cost.
- Forging an elderly person’s signature on cheques, contracts or other paperwork for financial gain.
- Making long-term promises in exchange for immediate financial gains. For example, promising that an elderly person can live with them in the future if they pay for home improvements now.
- Tricking an elderly person into signing a power of attorney. This allows them to gain control over the elderly person’s finances, property or businesses.
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Is financial abuse a crime in the UK?
According to the Money Advice Service, financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse. If you notice signs of financial abuse affecting somebody you love – or if you are experiencing abuse yourself – contact the police immediately.
You can also contact Adult Social Services at your local council or your local Women’s Aid organisation. They may be able to help you directly. If not, they’ll help you contact a solicitor who can advise you on the next steps to take and how to protect yourself.
If possible, you should take steps to protect your finances. For example, you can change your financial passwords or report credit card abuse to your bank.
If you find that money is regularly going missing from your accounts or wallet, then talk to your bank to check for unusual activity and stop carrying cash. The sooner you talk to somebody about signs of financial abuse, the sooner you’ll be able to fix the problem.
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