Financial & Economic Abuse
What is Financial Abuse?
‘Financial abuse’ is defined by the World Health Organisation as “the illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or other resources of the older person”. [WHO, 2008]
This can include having money or other property stolen, being defrauded, being put under pressure in relation to money or other property and having money or other property misused.
When defining financial abuse, we know that there are many elements to consider. It often involves or associated with:
- Professionals acting inappropriately or with negligence
- Someone taking or misusing someone else’s money or belongings for their own gain
- Harming, depriving or disadvantaging the victim
- Controlling someone’s purchases or access to money
It doesn’t always involve a crime like theft or fraud
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Ways to Spot Financial Abuse
If you suspect that you or someone close to you is the victim of financial abuse, there are a few signs that might suggest that it’s happening:
- Signatures on cheques etc. that do not resemble the person’s signature or has been signed when the person cannot write
- Any sudden changes in bank accounts, including unexplained withdrawals
- The sudden inclusions of additional names on the person’s bank account
- Abrupt changes to a will
- The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to the person’s affairs and possessions
- Sudden, unexplained transfers of assets to a family member of someone outside the family
- Numerous unpaid bills when someone is supposed to be taking care of this
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuables
- Deliberate isolation of the person from friends and family
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Frequently asked questions
Financial abuse can be committed by anyone, at any time. This could include:
- Professionals, including: will writers, banks, attorneys, social workers (and others that have breached their financial duty)
- Spouses, friends, family and neighbours
- People employed to provide care
The impacts may not just be financial but also emotional. For older people they may feel violated, embarrassed, loss of self-esteem and betrayal which could led to social isolation and also link to negative health outcomes.
Financially it is much harder for older people to recover from financial abuse as they have less time and opportunity to work to rebuild assets.
Being well organised about your money is a good idea at all times.
This doesn’t need to be very elaborate.
Keeping all documentation in one place is simple but effective.
Another way to protect yourself is to keep a clear list of all your finances:
- Your spending
- Sources of income
- Savings, investments or property
This makes everything much clearer if there is anything that is seems out of place and could be a clear indication of financial abuse taking place.
The first port of call is assessing to make sure that you have a case and that some/all of what has been lost can be recovered. Once this has been established, we can begin trying to recover anything that has been lost.
Unfortunately, the reality is that money or valuables stolen by family members and carers can be hard to recover. This is also more of a criminal issue and something that we do not deal with.
However, if someone in a position of power, a Deputy, Attorney or the bank, for example, has taken advantage of you or someone you love and has breached their financial duty, please contact our Dispute Resolution team on 01708 784000.
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Dispute Resolution Team
Holly is a Member and Head of Mullis and Peake’s Dispute Resolution Department
Martyn is our Chairman and the firms' Compliance Officer for Legal Practice