Financial abuse - what is it?



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03 Oct 18

Financial abuse - what is it?

Hayden Luke - Fitness Expert Hadyn Luke posted this on Wednesday 3rd October 2018


Anyone can be a victim of financial abuse but certain groups are particularly at risk.

These include the elderly, those with dementia, disabilities or other illnesses, and other vulnerable people. There is also a high incidence of financial abuse against people who are experiencing other forms of abuse, such as emotional abuse, domestic violence or honour based violence.

The Co-operative Bank, which has been campaigning to raise awareness of this issue says that according to research for a campaign it has launched with Refuge, almost one in five British adults “have experienced financial abuse in an intimate relationship”. A third of these do not tell anyone about the abuse.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse can take many different forms, from stealing money from a purse to forcing someone into crime.

It’s often a way of controlling, undermining or obtaining power over another person, and can be a one-off incident or abuse that lasts many years.

A few examples of financial abuse include:

  • Stealing or money, goods or property
  • Defrauding another person
  • Pressuring someone to lend or give money
  • Using a partner’s credit card without permission
  • Spending money held in a joint account without discussion
  • Gambling with family assets
  • Stopping a partner from working or insisting they hand over their wages or benefits
  • Forcing someone to commit a crime to gain financial benefit
  • Pressuring someone to change a will

Financial abuse can continue after a relationship breaks down, for example a person who fails to pay child maintenance.

Who perpetrates financial abuse?

Financial abuse can be carried out by a stranger, but in most cases the perpetrator is known to the victim. It might be their partner, a family member or a carer.

They might use emotional manipulation or violence, and in some cases they have alcohol, drug or gambling problems.

What are the outcomes of financial abuse?

Financial abuse can control and limit a person’s life and choices. It can result in long-term debt or financial hardship; in the worst cases, it can leave someone destitute.

It will often have a detrimental mental effect on the victim, resulting in depression and anxiety. They may find themselves unable to trust others and/or suffering mental health issues.

In cases of domestic violence, a victim can find it even harder to leave an abusive relationship if they have no access to funds to support themselves and any children.

Elderly people who suffer financial abuse face particular challenges recovering from it, as they are less likely to have options to replace the lost income, for example through work.

Where can you go for help?

Some financial abuse is a crime and can be reported to the police. However, it can sometimes be difficult to prove whether a financial transaction was a loan or a gift.

Victims should not feel ashamed of speaking out in cases where they trusted a partner, relative or carer and this trust was abused.

Organisations that can provide help include:


Citizen’s Advice Bureau:

Refuge:; 0808 2000 247

Women’s Aid:; 0808 2000 247

Men’s Advice Line: 0808 8010 327

Action on Elder Abuse:; 080 8808 8141 

Hayden Luke - Fitness Expert

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