Imagine how it would feel if you couldn’t access your money or get a job without someone else’s permission – or if another person was racking up debts in your name.
Horrible, right? But financial abuse may be more common than you think, and financial services firms are highlighting the help available for those affected to start taking back control over their money.
Trade association UK Finance has just published an information leaflet which services provider firms are placing on their websites.
But while help is available, the issue often remains hidden. A third of people who have experienced financial abuse say they told no one about it.
To help highlight the issue and encourage people to speak up, here are some of the warning signs of financial abuse, plus ways to change the situation and get help…
What is financial abuse?
It could happen when someone tries to take control of your finances, exploit them or sabotage them. This may be by a partner, relative or someone outwith the family, such as a carer.
Who’s at risk?
While it can happen to anyone, for some people it could take place alongside other abuse, such as violence. The Co-op Bank and Refuge’s research found 60% of cases were reported by women. In 82% of cases, victims had also experienced other forms of abuse. Older people may also be particularly at risk, and people with dementia may be targeted.
What are the warning signs?
Someone may have stopped you from being able to work or go to university, or prevented you from accessing your own money. They may have taken out credit cards or loans in your name without permission or asked you to change your will.
You may have had your money spent by someone else without your authorisation. Perhaps someone said they would pay bills or buy shopping for you before simply disappearing with your cash.
How your bank or other provider may be able to help
If you are in immediate danger, call the police. And if it’s safe to do so, ask to speak to someone in financial services about your situation. They can help you keep your finances safe, which may involve creating a new Pin and passwords if you think your account has been compromised.
If someone else is opening your post at home, you may be able to have some letters sent elsewhere or consider receiving your statements online.
Your provider may also help to remove someone else’s access to your account if you no longer want this or they could give additional access to someone you trust, if you want their support with your finances. If you have a joint account with an ex-partner and fear it may be drained, you could ask your provider not to permit withdrawals unless you and the joint account holder say so. You may want to look at closing the account – though if it’s overdrawn, you’re both responsible.
Other ways to start taking back financial control
Gathering your important documents will help you move on and make it easier to keep control of your finances in future.
If it’s difficult to get hold of paperwork, take copies or write down key information, like your national insurance number, rental or mortgage details and bills or loans in your name.
You could also obtain credit reference agency reports, which will give details of financial products in your name. Support is also available from charities like Refuge, StepChange, Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Trust.