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Financial or Material Abuse

Financial or material abuse is about unauthorised, fraudulent access to, and improper use of, funds, property or any resources of the adult at risk. This is often present with other types of abuse.

Some forms of this, such as scams, fraud, direct theft are quite easy to recognise, but financial abuse can start small and develop – a neighbour starts by helping with shopping and doesn’t return all the change, begins to charge large amounts for the service, perhaps then puts emotional pressure on an adult at risk to help buy a car, or to change their will.

Help to prevent this by checking how people are managing and safeguarding their affairs; consider their mental capacity and think about any particular risks.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a person who had been chosen by the adult to help them to make decisions about their health and welfare, and/ or financial decisions, if they lose the mental capacity to make the decisions themselves.

It needs to be a person they really trust; it is a legal power over important aspects of their lives. LPAs are expected to make decisions in the way that the person themselves would have done, to act in the best interests of that person. They have to keep records around financial issues and cannot use the person’s money or resources for their own purposes.

If there is a concern about the actions of an LPA, then the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) can investigate them and may take action to remove the person from the role.

Financial abuse enquiries will often involve the police, and there have been many successful prosecutions. Adults at risk are more likely to experience financial abuse by family, friends and carers. Many people do not think that using their relative’s money without permission or taking advantage of their situation is abuse.

Mental capacity is important to consider – adults at risk may choose not to support police action against family or friends, or carers they rely on. We still have to consider risks to others from that person, and should always talk through options, to stop it happening again, for example.

What might it look like?

  • Fraud, scamming (including internet scams), theft
  • Preventing a person from accessing their own money, benefits or assets
  • Lending money that is never paid back
  • Undue pressure, duress, threat or undue influence (coercion) put on the person in connection with loans, wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions
  • Arranging less care than is needed to save money to maximise inheritance
  • Someone stopping others helping to manage/monitor financial affairs
  • Refusing to access benefits
  • Misuse of personal allowance in a care home
  • Misuse of benefits or direct payments in a family home
  • Someone moving into a person’s home and living rent free without agreement or under duress
  • False representation, using another person's bank account, cards or documents
  • Exploitation of a person’s money or assets, e.g. unauthorised use of a car
  • Misuse of a power of attorney, deputy, appointeeship or other legal authority
  • Rogue trading – e.g. unnecessary or overpriced property repairs and failure to carry out agreed repairs or poor workmanship

How might you recognise it?

  • unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills, especially when there is someone appointed to support with this; debt building up
  • unexplained withdrawal of money from accounts
  • personal possessions going missing
  • contrast being known income and actual living conditions
  • unusual interest by friend/relative/neighbour in financial matters
  • pressure from next of kin for formal arrangements being set up.
  • Receipts not being provided for shopping or other services

Case study

Download Financial Abuse case study

Scamming – Filthy Rituals podcast – about a woman who scammed a large number of people by pretending to be a friend

Norfolk Police have a dedicated webpage with more advice and local  information about fraud, in particular issues reported in Norfolk:

Norfolk Police - Advice about fraud

Thames Valley Police has developed a new romance fraud e-booklet, in collaboration with Professor Elisabeth Carter, criminologist and forensic linguist, Carter & Day consultancy.  The booklet has been designed to demonstrate the clever tactics used by romance fraudsters, with a view to empowering the knowledge of our communities.  It also dispels the myths of shame and embarrassment often associated with this crime, by highlighting the link to coercive control.  

Nov 2023 From the charity Re-engage - report published The unseen price of a scam