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What is financial abuse?

If someone is misusing your money or stealing from you – or you're worried that this is happening to someone else – this could be financial abuse. There are signs to look out for and there's support available.

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What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse is the mistreatment of someone in terms of their money or assets, such as their property. Financial abuse often occurs alongside other forms of abuse. 

Financial abuse can include:

  • money being stolen or misused
  • fraud
  • exploiting someone's financial affairs
  • restricting someone's access to money, employment or possessions
  • pressuring and coercing someone about their will, lasting power of attorney, property or inheritance. 

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Signs of financial abuse

While financial abuse can look very different for different people, there are signs of financial abuse you can look out for, either in your own life or if you're worried about a friend, relative or neighbour. Think about the answers to the following questions:

  • Have you noticed unusual or inappropriate transactions on your bank statements?
  • Are you unable to access cash, either via banking or income sources, such as your pension or other benefits? 
  • Are you being pressured into giving your money to others, leaving you without the money you need to pay for essentials? 
  • Have you recently lost money without any explanation? 
  • Have you lent money to someone and they haven't given it back?
  • Do you feel pressured or forced into making changes to your will or other financial plans?

While this list isn't exhaustive, these are some of the most common signs that someone may be experiencing financial abuse. 

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Talking to someone in confidence

If you want to talk to someone about what's going on, call Hourglass on 0808 808 8141 at any time of the day or night.

How financial abuse might affect you

Everyone's experience of financial abuse is different and individual to them. Even though there are signs, it can be difficult to spot in day-to-day life.

We've produced some situations of financial abuse based on real-life examples. For the purposes of these examples, names and some details have been changed. 

If any of it sounds at all familiar to you or someone you care about, help is available.

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Gordon's story

Gordon has care needs and Alex looks after him. She lives a few doors down from Gordon and does his shopping, cooks meals and just helps him day-to-day. He feels he'd be lost without her.

Alex uses Gordon's card to do his shopping, so knows his PIN. She used to take the card and leave it by Gordon's chair with the receipt when she got back. Then she'd tend to do a spot of cleaning for Gordon.

But Alex has stopped leaving the card with Gordon and holds on to it 'for safe keeping'. Recently, Gordon got a call from the bank about some unusual transactions on his bank statements and a couple of his antiques were missing from the back room. He thinks Alex might be stealing from him.

Things have changed recently. I think Alex is taking advantage of me. 

Mo's story 

Mo set up a power of attorney for financial decisions a few years ago, naming her friend, Joan, as her attorney. 

She didn't need it at the time, but last year Mo went into hospital and so Joan looked after her finances while she recovered. Mo trusted Joan to act in her best interest and didn't really question anything she suggested. 

But Mo's feeling much like her normal self again now and wants to make her own decisions and take back control of her own finances. Every time she tries to talk to Joan about it she feels she's spoken over and the subject is changed. 

Mo feels like she doesn't have control over her own finances and doesn't know what to do.

I don't have any control – everything's being decided for me. 

Audrey's story

Audrey has 3 children – though only her son, Roger, lives nearby. He does odd jobs for her and visits whenever he can. 

Recently, Roger has started mentioning sheltered accommodation to his mum. He's told Audrey that she'd be better off there and should sell her home and move to a place closer to him.

She feels comfortable in her home and doesn't want to sell it. But Roger keeps telling her how much money she'd get for selling the house and that he could do with some of it – it would really help him and his family out as they're looking to extend their kitchen. Roger tells Audrey 'the money will be coming his way eventually, so why not now when it will actually help?'

Audrey feels guilty and wants to help her son, but doesn't want to feel pressured into selling her home.

I'm just fine at home, I really don't want to move. 

Who can I reach out to?

Whether you're looking for more support for yourself or someone you care about, there's help out there.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger

If it's an emergency, call the police on 999. If it's not an emergency, you can call the police on 101

If you or someone you know has been scammed

Contact Action Fraud by visiting their website or by calling them on 0300 123 2040.

If you or someone you know wants to talk to someone

If you want to talk to someone or you just need more support contact Hourglass by visiting their website or by calling them on 0808 808 8141. 

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Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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