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‘Anyone is at risk’ – Spotting signs of financial abuse

Sam Gibson, financial planner at wealth manager Brewin Dolphin’s Newcastle office explains what financial abuse is and how to seek help.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 19.10.2022

1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have suffered some form of financial abuse, typically at the hands of their partner.

But what is financial abuse? Financial abuse is an aspect of ‘coercive control’ from an intimate partner – a pattern of controlling, threatening and degrading behaviour that restricts a victim’s freedom to support themselves financially.

From being prevented from having your own bank card to being forced to have a joint bank account with little to no access to it, there are different signs to look out for to spot this form of abuse that leaves the victim feeling trapped and fearful of their future.

We caught up with Sam Gibson, financial planner at wealth manager Brewin Dolphin’s Newcastle office, who explains what financial abuse is and how you can seek help.

TYPE 1: CONTROLLING BEHAVIOUR

When one person deliberately restricts access to, or solely controls all their partner’s finances leaving them with no money for basic essentials. This is often seen as part of a wider narrative of controlling and manipulating behaviour and according to Women’s Aid, there was a financial abuse element to nearly a third (31.9%) of those who have suffered from domestic abuse.

 

TYPE 2: RESTRICTIONS

One partner perilously restricts or risks their partner’s or family’s ability to financially look after themselves through financially irresponsible behaviour such as reckless spending on addictions such as gambling, alcohol or shopping.

 

TYPE 3: EXPLOITATION

When the perpetrator is privy to someone’s private financial details and then uses it to exploit them and fraudulently gain access to their money.

SPOTTING THE SIGNS OF FINANCIAL ABUSE

‘Anyone is at risk’, says Sam. ‘Because no one sets out to enter a relationship where financial abuse is the outcome.

Overt warnings

  • Being prevented from having your own bank cards
  • Being discouraged from having a job that will provide a salary
  • Being forced to have a joint bank account with little to no access to it
  • Money is being restricted and only given as if it were pocket money and passwords to joint bank accounts are being changed

 

Subtle clues

  • Post and bank statements are hidden
  • Secretive behaviour and calls on the mobile
  • Generally undermining someone’s confidence in their ability to manage money

Sam’s advice for anyone who believes themselves to be in a potentially financially abusive situation is:

  1. Speak to someone. Once fear is out in the open it can often feel easier to deal with. It could be a friend or family member, or an organisation such as Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Women’s Aid who will have dealt with these issues before.
  2. Aim to have access to your own money. Try to build up two to three months’ worth of savings as a safety net should you need to remove yourself from the household.
  3. Ensure that regardless of whose responsibility various aspects of the household finances are, keep fully abreast of how much money there is and where it is, even if it means regular household meetings. Educate yourself on your financial position both independently and as a family unit. There should be financial honesty in any partnership or family.
  4. If you do suspect your partner of being fiscally irresponsible, invite them to speak openly to you about what’s going on rather than being confrontational, because if they are in trouble, the situation could spiral. If you are too combative, they are likely to become defensive and potentially hide the problem even more.
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