How many Brits have dealt with financial abuse?

At Lowell, we understand how important it is to raise awareness about important issues such as financial abuse.

Everybody should be able to be in control of their own finances, especially if they’re in debt.

That’s why we’ve done our own research into financial abuse across the UK, to learn more about the impact this can have on Lowell customers and their families.

What is financial abuse, and how many Brits have been victims of it?

Financial abuse is a type of domestic abuse, where someone has power over you and your finances. There are lots of different types of financial abuse, which can make it tricky to spot.

Financial abuse can happen to anybody. It most commonly occurs between partners or spouses, but financial abuse can also be committed by other family members, friends or carers.

We asked the Lowell Customer Panel[1] about their experience with financial abuse, and found that 37% have been a victim of it directly, or know of someone who has.

When it comes to the different forms of financial abuse, 51% of respondents mentioned someone spending money without telling you. 41% brought up someone deliberately withholding funds to stop you from seeing other family and friends, and 38% mentioned someone keeping track of every single thing you buy.

Speaking to someone about their own financial abuse experience

To further understand the impact financial abuse can have on someone’s life, we spoke to Natasha Saunders, an active campaigner and independent consultant for causes against domestic abuse. We asked Natasha about her experience, and here’s what she had to say:

“Financial abuse is a crippling pandemic that has been occurring since time began. Speaking out about financial abuse often brings ridicule and disbelief. Having your bank accounts monitored, keeping receipts to prove the cost of things, and having vital things such as sanitary products or food withheld is abuse. Those are all things I suffered with my ex-husband.

“I'm over 7 years free of his hold now, married to my best friend and yet my credit score is a joke. I have debt from when I was with him because he put my name on the bills, I have debt from fighting him in family court to keep my children safe. I still feel like I need to justify a purchase or explain an expense to my husband who always kindly brushes it aside and reminds me he doesn't need to know because I'm my own person. The dark cloud of money worries my ex has left me with won't vanish any time soon, the lasting legacy of financial abuse cripples many survivors’ lives long after they leave, and some even go back because the step into the unknown is scarier than the devil they know.”

How to spot the signs of financial abuse

As well as speaking to Lowell customers directly, we also conducted another survey[2] across the wider public, asking Brits how confident they would be in being able to spot the signs of financial abuse. 15% of survey respondents said they don’t know the signs to look out for.

We understand that it isn’t easy to know for definite if something is classed as ‘financial abuse’ or not. However, if you’re in a situation where you don’t feel in control of your finances due to someone else, this may be financial abuse.

Here are a few examples of situations that could be a sign of financial abuse:

  • Being asked to prove where you’re spending money, and what you have spent it on
  • Telling you how you can, and can’t, spend your money
  • Adding their name to your account, taking control of your accounts, or preventing you from accessing them
  • Leaving you to pay off debt after forcing you to take out credit or getting loans in your name
  • Fraudulently taking out credit in your name, without your knowledge or permission
  • Deliberately withholding funds to stop you from socialising with friends and family
  • Putting all the household bills in your name
  • Stopping you from going to work so that you are financially reliant on them
  • Pressuring you to change your will

If you’re worried about what might happen to you financially if you and your partner split up, we’ve previously given some helpful tips on how to deal with joint debt after separation.

If you're in a situation where you don't feel in control of your finances due to someone else, this may be financial abuse

Dealing with witnessing financial abuse

When asked about what, if anything, they would do if they witnessed someone facing financial abuse, 35% of people we surveyed responded that they would talk to the victim directly, with 24% saying they would tell a friend or family member.

20% of Brits would ring a financial support line, with 14% taking matters further by ringing 999. 14% said they would access a domestic abuse charity and 10% would confront the abuser themselves.

We know it can be hard to talk about sensitive topics like financial abuse but if you are struggling, or know someone else who is, then it can really help to talk about it. We have a whole blog with tips on how to talk to a loved one about debt and mental health.

If you’re dealing with financial abuse yourself, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Speak to a domestic abuse adviser, such as Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7, or a specialist charity such as Surviving Economic Abuse
  • If possible, freeze any joint accounts
  • See if you can change PIN numbers and other online banking details (i.e., passwords)
  • See what debts or lines of credit you have currently in your name. You can do this via a credit report online – check out our guide to your credit file for more information.
  • Have a safe place to keep important financial documents, with spare copies elsewhere

At Lowell, we put our customers first and are here to help you however we can. We can put you in touch with additional independent support and advice services. You can also find more information about domestic abuse on the GOV website. To find out more research and information about financial wellbeing, check out the Lowell blog.


Published by Libby Davies on 1st August, 2022


[1] Survey conducted by Lowell to their Customer Panel, 248 respondents in the UK, June 2022.

[2] Survey by Censuswide on behalf of Lowell - 1,000 UK respondents, June 2022.

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