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This month, our board member Rachel Carmichael, Financial Crime Advisor at one of the major banks writes for us about Financial Abuse.


Financial abuse IS a form of domestic abuse


In Scotland the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 began on 1 April 2019, and includes a pattern of behaviour by partners or ex-partners including violent, physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse.

Police Scotland and the Crown Office define domestic abuse as any form of physical, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse may be committed in the home or elsewhere including online.

What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse, like all abuse, is illegal in Scotland. If someone is forced to be dependent on someone financially or if their money or income is controlled, monitored or restricted by a partner or ex-partner then it is considered coercive control, which is a crime.

What does financial abuse look like?
Financial abuse can take a variety of forms. Some of the below questions may help you to identify if you or someone you know is being impacted by financial abuse.

Has your partner:

  • Stopped you from working or attending university/college?
  • Stopped you from being able to access your bank accounts or forced you to have their name added to your accounts?
  • Forced you to take out a credit card or tried to get a credit card in your name without you knowing?
  • Forced you to put all bills in your name?
  • Told you to give them all your income from either your salary or benefit payments?
  • Stopped you from spending money on essentials?
  • Told you to account for any money that you spend?

All the above can impact your financial independence and therefore, they are examples of financial abuse.

Also, bank details may be fraudulently accessed by a current or ex-partner, resulting in them spending the funds without your knowledge. In these circumstances, your financial service provider will be able to raise a fraud case for you.

What can the bank do?
Financial abuse is not a new phenomenon. However, the introduction of the Financial Abuse Code in 2018 has resulted in financial institutions improving the action they take to support vulnerable customers to take control of their finances.

If you are impacted by financial abuse, then your financial service provider will be able to provide you with tailored support. They have specialist teams in place who will take the time to listen to your individual circumstances. Their employees are aware of the difficult circumstances you face and will remain respectful and confidential while discussing your next steps with you. Taking these first steps is incredibly brave, however it is important that you talk to someone. There is always support available to you.

Financial service providers understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and therefore, they often provide multiple methods for contacting them. If appropriate you can contact them via telephone and ask to speak to someone about what you are going through. If you would prefer to speak to someone face-to-face, then it may be better for you to attend one of your bank’s local branches. Alternatively, it may be easier for you to reach out through their online support services (e.g., online referral form or webchat service).

Below are just some of the ways in which your financial service provider can support you, if you reach out to them –

  • Opening a new account – where necessary you will be provided with support to open a new account that is not connected to any joint accounts that you may hold.
  • Joint account – where necessary, you will be supported to close or suspend joint accounts.
  • Security – If it is not secure for you to receive letters at your home address, then you can be supported to gain access to online statements or have your letters sent to a secure location. Furthermore, the service provider can support you to ensure that any pins and passwords are only known to yourself and that no one else can gain access to your account.
  • Dealing with debts – they can provide support to have a secondary card holder removed from a credit card applied for in your name. They can provide you with advice to ensure that any debt you may have as a result of the financial abuse does not get worse and how to deal with this debt.

There is no one size fits all approach and there may be some exceptional circumstances where additional support can be provided. Even if you feel the above will not resolve your situation, it is important that you reach out so that the financial service provider can tailor their service to support you. They are there to help!

If you believe that someone you may know is a potential victim of financial abuse, then you can contact their financial provider to get some advice. However, there may be limited action they can take without receiving a report from the individual who has been directly impacted. If you require further assistance, then there are additional organisations that can provide advice including Scottish Women’s Aid 24-hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline (0800 027 1234). If you believe the person is in immediate danger, then please call 999.

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 (legislation.gov.uk)
Refuge. (2020) Know Economic Abuse, Refuge: London