5 signs of financial abuse that shouldn’t be ignored

Broken piggy bank with coins on table indoors

With the cost of living crisis adversely affecting many people’s daily lives, it’s not surprising that financial wellbeing is a hot topic right now. However, one aspect of the topic that isn’t often touched on, is that of financial abuse.

Given the worrying statistic that almost one in five British adults have experienced financial abuse, it’s important to highlight this aspect as it has strong implications on the financial wellbeing of many people, and can happen to anyone, irrespective of gender or age.

Credit management company, Lowell has revealed the signs you should look out for if you suspect financial abuse as well as how you can get support.

Research shows that almost one in five (18%) of British adults have experienced financial abuse in a current or past relationship. Of this, one in five women (21%) and one in seven men (15%) have been a victim.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse is a type of domestic abuse where someone has power over you and your finances. There are several types of financial abuse, and sadly it can happen to anybody – regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

Here are five signs you should look out for if you suspect financial abuse:

  • Being asked to prove where you’re spending money and what on 
  • Telling you how you can, and can’t, spend your money       
  • Adding their name to your account or taking control of your accounts
  • Leaving you to pay off debt after making you take out money, or getting loans in your name 
  • Preventing you from accessing your accounts

Lowell asked their Customer Panel about their experience with financial abuse, and found that 37% have been a victim of it directly, or know of someone who has.

When it comes to the different forms of financial abuse, over half (51%) of respondents mentioned someone spending money without telling you. Over two-fifths (41%) brought up someone deliberately withholding funds to stop you from seeing other family and friends, and finally, 38% said that their abuser kept track of every single thing they buy.

Lowell also conducted a separate survey asking Brits how confident they would be in being able to spot the signs of financial abuse. One in six (15%) admitted that they don’t know the signs to look out for.

What can you do if you suspect financial abuse?

  • Speak to someone you trust – Reaching out to family and friends gives you that extra support when you feel the most vulnerable. Once you openly talk about the abuse you are experiencing, it can often feel easier to deal with.
  • Get help from domestic abuse charities – These charities provide support and life-saving services for people who are suffering from abuse. Domestic abuse charities have teams of highly trained advisers that offer community-based aid.
  • Keep an emergency fund – If possible, try to save some of your own money as a safety net. You could ask a family member or close friend to look after it.
  • Contact the police – Dependant on the threat posed by the abuser, you can report the abuse to the police. They can intervene in the situation, arrest anyone committing offences and offer you the best support.

Natasha Saunders, an active campaigner and independent consultant for causes against domestic abuse, spoke to Lowell about her experiences:

“Financial abuse is a crippling pandemic that has been occurring since time began. Speaking out about financial abuse often brings ridicule and disbelief. Having your bank accounts monitored, keeping receipts to prove the cost of things, and having vital things such as sanitary products or food withheld is abuse. Those are all things I suffered with my ex-husband.”

John Pears, UK CEO at Lowell, adds:

“The results from our research around financial abuse are both shocking and deeply upsetting to read. The lasting impact of financial abuse can be devastating, but it’s important to know that if you, or someone you love, are at risk from suspected financial abuse, you are not alone. There are many specialist organisations who can help.

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At Lowell, we put our customers’ wellbeing first, and we’ll always make sure customers can access the support they need by sharing where to find independent support and advice services. 

You can also find more information about the signs of domestic abuse and information on support and helplines available on the GOV website, or you can contact Refuge’s National Abuse Domestic Helpline directly on 0808 2000 247.”

For more information on Lowell’s financial abuse campaign visit: https://www.lowell.co.uk/about-us/lowells-blog/financial-health/how-many-brits-have-dealt-with-financial-abuse/

You might also like:

Are Your Employees Suffering From Domestic Abuse? How to Spot the Signs and Help

Male Victims of Domestic Abuse: What Employers & Colleagues Can Do To Help



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