What is Financial Abuse?
“When someone exerts excessive financial control, harm or exploitation of another” (Citizens’ Advice Bureau).
This includes theft, fraud, internet scamming, coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits (Care Act 2014).
Financial or material abuse can occur in isolation, but research has shown where there are other forms of abuse, there is likely to be financial abuse occurring. Although this is not always the case, everyone should be aware of this possibility.
Spotting the Signs of Financial Abuse
- Change in living conditions, which can include lack of heating, clothing or food
- Lack of heating, clothing or food
- Inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money
- Unexplained withdrawals from an account
- Unexplained loss/misplacement of financial documents
- The recent addition of authorised signers on a client’s or donors signature card
- Sudden or unexpected changes in a Will or other financial documents
- Unexpected changes/renovations to the person’s home
- Transferring financial liabilities into a victims name
- Workmen visiting to complete un-planned and or seemingly unnecessary building work
- Sudden new friends/acquaintances taking trips together, making joint financial commitments or planning to move in
The most common victims: Older people living alone, in receipt of services, in bad or very bad health, divorced, separated or lonely. Additionally those with disabilities are at a greater risk, and in some cases there can also be a link to domestic abuse.
The most common perpetrators: Sadly, research shows that often those whom the elderly trust the most are usually the perpetrators of financial abuse, such as a family member. Unfortunately the elderly or vulnerable are also often targeted for scams.
Most commonly, financial abuse occurs in the victims own home or a care home. Perpetrators can often have drug, alcohol, relationship, financial or gambling problems
Warning Signs linked to Domestic Abuse
- Refusing to contribute to household or other costs, including child maintenance payments
- Transferring financial liabilities into a victims name
- Perpetrator not contributing to joint bills
- Perpetrator getting the victim to take out credit
- The perpetrator using all joint resources
- The perpetrator controlling access to the victim’s income, banking or savings
- The perpetrator controlling or interfering with the victims benefits
What are Scams?
Scams come in many forms and are received by email, letter, telephone or in person making false promises to con victims out of money. The most common are fake lotteries, deceptive prize draws or sweepstakes, clairvoyants, computer scams, and romance scams.
Criminals attempt to trick people with flashy, official looking documents or websites, or convincing telephone sales patter, with the aim of persuading them to send a processing or administration fee, pay postal or insurance costs or make a premium rate phone call. Doorstep Scams are crimes carried out by bogus callers, rogue traders and unscrupulous sales people who call, often uninvited, at people’s home under the guise of legitimate business or trade.
Cleveland Police have released a series of ‘Little Books’:
- Report Financial Abuse to your local Adult Social Care Team
- Speak with your local Trading Standards Team
- Speak to Citizens Advice
- Speak to local charities, such as Age UK, Alzheimers Society or Money Carer Foundation
- In residential care, nursing care or domiciliary care or other services. Contact the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on 03000 616161 or email [email protected]
- Find Support in Your Area
How to Prevent Financial Abuse
- Discuss money management with family: It is important that adults and their family members have an ‘estate plan’ for how finances are to be managed if an individual becomes unable to look after them, and if possible allocate responsibilities to different family members to create appropriate checks and balances. You can also apply to be a ‘deputy’ which is a representative for someone who lacks capacity (visit www.gov.uk)
- Monitor bills and check bank statements: If bills are left unpaid or large sums of money have come out of a person’s account, this could be an indication that they are not managing financially.
- Check that large amounts of cash are not being kept in the home: This could be a sign someone is putting themselves at unnecessary risk of theft.
- Accompany elders to meetings with financial advisors: Financial advisors who are paid on commission may ‘recommend’ unnecessary financial products. This is particularly relevant due to recent changes in relation to pensions.
- Seek financial advice and support: Your bank manager can look at extra support that may be available and ways of managing money, for example, using a signature card instead of a PIN.
- Stay safe online: make sure you have strong passwords and suspicious of any links or emails you do not recognise
- Stay active within your local community: Social isolation can put people more at risk of financial abuse.
- Set up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA): This enables individuals to choose someone they can trust to make decisions on their behalf about things such as paying bills and collecting income if they become unable to take those decisions (visit www.gov.uk)
- Put a ‘no cold callers’ sign on the door
- Stop junk mail and unwanted telephone calls: There are a number of ways to do this such as signing up to the Mailing Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service (see useful websites below)
- Only ever use reputable or recommended builders
- Run background checks on caregivers or personal assistants
- Protect valuables: List and photograph all of your valuables. Keep the items in a locked drawer and the photographs in a different location. Doing so could be useful if the valuables are stolen, as you can prove they actually belong to you/a relative.
- Check up on them: The best way to prevent problems or at least identify them quickly is to check up on your relatives regularly.