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Financial Abuse (including SCAMS and Frauds)

What is Financial abuse?

Financial abuse is:

“The unauthorised and improper use of funds, property or any resources belonging to another individual.”

Woman buying something online with cardIt includes:

  • theft, fraud and exploitation,
  • pressure in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, misuse or misappropriation of property, assets, possessions, savings, capital or benefits.
  • SCAMS and other forms of fraud, both on line, postal and door stop crimes


Types of financial abuse may include

  • Theft i.e. money or possessions stolen, borrowed or withheld without permission. · Wrongfully controlling access to money or benefits.
  • Preventing someone buying goods, services or leisure activities.
  • Money being absorbed into a care home or household budget without the person’s consent.
  • Being deliberately overcharged for goods or services, or being asked to part with money under false pretences.
  • Not providing the care (1 to 1 and shared hours) but charging the client.
  • Carrying out unnecessary work and / or overcharging.
  • Postal, telephone and internet scams where the person has interacted with someone and has lost money.
  • Unlicensed money lending (loan sharks) i.e. being offered a loan on very bad terms.
  • Staff or volunteers borrowing money, or accepting gifts or money from clients.
  • Misuse of a person’s assets by professionals
  • Altering ownership of property without consent.
  • Exerting undue influence to give away assets.
  • Pressure in connection with wills, property, inheritance, possessions or benefits.
  • Putting undue pressure on the person to accept lower-cost / lower quality services in order to preserve more financial resources to be passed to beneficiaries on death.
  • Misuse of powers of attorney.


The impact of financial abuse should not be underestimated and can be every bit as significant as physical abuse. Even small losses have the potential for significant impact when considered in context with a person’s overall wealth / income and whether or not they have access to the right support.

The negative impact of financial abuse, regardless of the source, can leave people unsettled and without the confidence to live independently. It can cause the person who previously did not have a need for social care services to deteriorate to the level at which they require services. How does financial abuse affect someone?

A person may experience any of the following:

  • Depression / anxiety
  • Distress
  • Anger
  • Embarrassment / loss of self-esteem
  • Self-blame – decline in mental health
  • Denial / fear
  • Betrayal
  • Stress and Loss of confidence to live independently
  • Deterioration in physical health (leading to premature death)
  • Social isolation
  • More vulnerable to further exploitation
  • Inability to replace lost savings due to lack of earning potential

When financial abuse is reported all agencies must respond quickly to minimise the harm and abuse as follows:

  1. All suspicions or incidents of financial abuse of a vulnerable adult MUST be reported to Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Adults Team (MASH) as the lead agency for Safeguarding adults.
  2. Suspicions or incidents of financial abuse of a vulnerable adult MUST be reported to the police if this is the wish of the individual.
  3. Priority MUST be given by all agencies to participate in safeguarding adults multi agency planning meeting so a multi-agency plan to protect and investigate the concerns can take place.
  4. The individual’s views and wishes must be ascertained as quickly as possible.
  5. Individuals must be made aware of the concerns and the possible consequences. They must be supported to make informed decisions – this may be by the provision of information and/or the support of an advocate.
  6. Individual capacity, if in question, must be assessed.
  7. Take immediate action to protect the individual from further harm and abuse..
  8. Work closely with the police to ensure vulnerable adults can make a complaint and give a statement – this may include accessing advocates, interpreters, speech and language therapists, victim support etc.
  9. Consider what other forms of abuse may also be present. Financial abuse is often accompanied by emotional abuse and neglect, self neglectt and sometimes physical abuse.
  • Police – 999 or 101
  • MASH – 0800 137 915
  • Trading Standards – 01296 383212

Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Adults Board has been working on at the area of financial abuse and SCAMS and in particulare the issue of when someone may lack the mental capacity to understand the form of financial abuse that they are a victim of. As a Board we offer E Learning on Mental Capacity and SCAMS which is available on our Training page as well as Face to Face Traning on the same subject.

We have also been looking at where the incidents of certain types of abuse occur using data from Trading Standards:


The Map highlights that there is a cluster of financial abuse in the south of the county which may relate to the location of the are which is close to the motorway and is an area where there is a large number of elderly residents. It is this information which the Board is now using to assist partner agencies in targeting their resources.