Take back control to defend against financial abuse

Call for vulnerable people to ‘take back control’ of their money as 5pc of people say they experienced financial abuse during lockdown.

Two-thirds of people who needed help from others to manage their money during the Covid-19 lockdown have not taken back control of their own finances.

This is according to new research commissioned by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) together with Safeguarding Ireland and published today (19 October).

“Keeping ongoing control of your own finances remains the best ongoing way to safeguard against financial abuse”

BPFI and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that, while following public health guidelines, people should take back and keep control of their own money as much as possible – in order to combat financial abuse.

Carried out on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, using RED C’s online omnibus survey, the research found that 11pc of adults needed the help of others to manage or access their money during the Covid lockdown period. However, just one-third (33pc) of these have taken back this control since the lockdown restrictions were lifted.

One in twenty people (5pc) said they experienced financial abuse during lockdown and 19pc had ever experienced financial abuse.

13pc were concerned about someone taking advantage of them financially and 12pc experienced less control of their finances since the pandemic began.

Manage your own money

“We and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that people keep control of their own money, particularly if vulnerable,” said BPFI Head of Sustainable Banking, Louise O’Mahony. “As much as possible, and doing so safely, take back any control of your money you given up during Covid-19.

“It is reassuring to note that the Covid-19 lockdown led to just 11pc of adults requiring help from others to manage their finances. This indicates that our message about managing one’s own money wherever possible is getting through to people.

“Less reassuring is the finding that many of those who took such action during the lockdown have not yet taken back control of their finances. People should of course get the help of trusted people if necessary as a short-term measure.

“However, keeping ongoing control of your own finances remains the best ongoing way to safeguard against financial abuse.”

Be vigilant

Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke stressed the importance of all adults keeping control of their bank accounts and being vigilant about relying on others.

“Unfortunately, it is estimated internationally that in excess of 10pc of people are dishonest in how they manage a vulnerable person’s money. This research indicates that 5pc of adults experienced financial abuse during the lockdown and that 19pc have done so at one point or another in the past.

“Covid-19 raises additional challenges for the independence of vulnerable people, but the advice remains as much as possible to keep charge of your own money. Any arrangements put in place during lockdown should be reversed, as it is safe to do so.”

Steps to protect your money

During the pandemic the retail banks and An Post have developed services and policies to support vulnerable customers. People can talk with their bank who have trained frontline staff in identifying and responding to financial abuse. Steps which people should take include:

  • Understand and organise your day-to-day banking
  • Check your bank account(s) regularly
  • Ensure access to your money for you and only a highly trusted person by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.

Louise O’Mahony added that customers should make contact with their bank or An Post if they have any concerns.

“Dedicated one-to-one appointments can be made when staff and customers can speak in confidence. With an account holder’s permission, the bank can monitor for suspicious behaviour.

“Your bank and An Post also provide many tips such as to avoid keeping large amounts of cash, using standing orders for secure payments, keeping PIN and CVV numbers private – and applying careful diligence to the use of joint or third party accounts.

“A lot of useful information is available in a booklet called Safeguarding your Money Now and in the Future which can be viewed at www.safeguardyourmoney.ie,” she said.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 19 October, 2020