January 2019: This chapter was amended to add a link to Friends against Scams, the National Trading Standards website, as above.
This includes theft, fraud, internet scamming, coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits. The potential impact of financial abuse should not be underestimated. It could significantly threaten an adult’s health and wellbeing.
According to the Office of the Public Guardian financial abuse is the most common form of abuse. Financial abuse can occur in isolation, but where there are also other forms of abuse, it is also likely to be a feature.
2. Indicators of Financial Abuse
Potential indicators of financial abuse include:
- change in living conditions;
- lack of heating, clothing or food;
- inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money;
- unexplained withdrawals from an account;
- unexplained loss/misplacement of financial documents;
- the recent addition of authorised signatories on a client or donor’s signature card; or
- sudden or unexpected changes in a will or other financial documents.
This is not an exhaustive list, nor do these examples prove that there is actual abuse occurring. However, they do indicate that a closer examination and possible investigation may be required.
Financial abuse may amount to theft or fraud which the police should investigate. It may also require attention and collaboration from a wider group of organisations, including shops and financial institutions such as banks.
Where the abuse is by someone who has the authority to manage an adult’s money, the relevant body should be informed, for example, the Office of the Public Guardian for deputies and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to appointees.
If there are concerns that a DWP appointee is acting incorrectly, the DWP should be contacted immediately. The DWP should inform the local authority where it is aware that the adult is already known to the authority.
See also Safeguarding Case Studies.
3. Internet, Postal and Doorstep Scams
Internet scams, postal scams and doorstep crime are more often than not, targeted at adults and are forms of financial abuse.
These scams are becoming ever more sophisticated and elaborate. For example:
- internet scammers can build very convincing websites;
- people can be referred to a website to check the caller’s legitimacy but this may be a copy of a legitimate website;
- postal scams are mass produced letters which are made to look like personal letters or important documents;
- doorstep criminals call unannounced at the adult’s home under the guise of legitimate business and offering to fix an often non-existent problem with their property. Sometimes they pose as police officers or someone in a position of authority.
All of these scams constitute financial abuse as the adult can be persuaded to part with large sums of money and in some cases their life savings. Such scams should always be reported to the police and local authority trading standards services for investigation. The SAB should consider how to involve local trading standards in its work.
These scams and crimes can seriously affect the health, including mental health, of an adult.
Agencies working together can better protect adults. Failure to do so can result in an increased cost to the state, especially if the adult loses their income and independence.
Where the abuse is perpetrated by someone who has the authority to manage an adult’s money, the relevant body should be informed – for example, the Office of the Public Guardian for deputies or attorneys and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to appointees.
If there are concerns that a DWP appointee is acting incorrectly, the DWP should be contacted immediately, having the person’s National Insurance number, name and address is helpful to the DWP. But the important thing is to make DWP aware of the concern.
If DWP knows that the person is also known to the local authority, then it should also inform the relevant authority.