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Financial abuse: Is it a crime and how do you report it in the UK?

How to recognize the most common signs of financial abuse

Financial abuse is a way of controlling someone’s ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and this may present itself in many different forms. Financial abuse can be from a partner as well as a family member, friend or carer. Abuse may include someone stealing money or valuables from you or it may be that your money is being used inappropriately by someone assigned to look after it. Financial abuse may also occur if someone coerces you in to spending your money in a way which doesn’t suit you. (Internet scams and doorstep crime are also common forms of financial abuse, however, the perpetrators are unlikely to be known to you).

Is financial abuse a crime?

Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse and will be recognised by the police as a criminal offence. Domestic abuse involves a pattern of behaviour that one person uses to control, undermine and obtain power over another person. Domestic abuse can include physical, sexual, psychological/emotional and financial abuse. It’s important to remember that abuse is a crime and it is not your fault. There are people and organisations that can help.

What to do if you think you are a victim of financial abuse

  • Joint accounts – many couples have a joint account in order to share access to money and to pay bills. You do not have to agree to open a joint account. If you have a joint account already you can ask the bank to freeze the account. This means neither you nor your partner would be able to take money out of the account. This action could increase your risk of harm, so taking expert advice from a domestic abuse specialist might help to ensure you can manage a problematic joint account safely.
  • Security – make sure you, and only you, know your PIN numbers and online banking passwords. If you think your partner has access to your PIN number or password you could consider changing them
  • Be clear what is in your name and what is not– such as your joint assets, tenancy agreements, mortgages, bank accounts and credit cards. This will give you a clearer picture of your financial situation
  • Know where important financial documents are kept – the next section of this guide gives a list of financial documents which are important for sorting out your financial situation in the future

There are ways by which you can identify whether you are the victim of financial abuse from your partner:

  • They are preventing you from working or going to work
  • They are stopping you from going to college or university
  • They ask you to account for everything you spend your money on
  • They have prevented you from getting access to your financial service provider accounts
  • They have stopped you from spending on essential items
  • They have taken credit cards and/or loans out in your name without your consent
  • They have spent your household budget on things without telling you
  • Your partner has put all the bills in your name

There are ways by which you can identify whether you are the victim of financial abuse from a family member, friend, partner or carer:

  • Someone taking out money or getting credit in your name without your knowledge or permission
  • Someone forcing you to hand over control of your accounts
  • Someone cashing in your cheques without your authorisation
  • Someone has added their name to your account
  • They have asked to change your will
  • Someone has offered to buy shopping or pay bills for you but you do not see this happening
  • You are being stopped from seeing other friends and family

Who should financial abuse be reported to?

If you or your children are in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

In cases where there where you have a suspicion of financial abuse, you should speak to a solicitor early on to consider your position. As all cases have different circumstances, you will need to receive tailored advice to ensure that your finances are effectively protected.

What are the legal sentences for those found guilty of financial abuse

Coercive or controlling domestic abuse is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, even if the crime falls short of physical abuse

What if you have been accused of financial abuse?

  • Stay calm
  • Do not try and remonstrate or talk round your partner
  • Keep a record of conversations
  • Use a third party to act as a facilitator to enable communication between you both to continue

If you are concerned about possible financial abuse, speak to the team at Rayden Solicitors for expert advice.

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