If a current or former partner has interfered with your money, finances or things that money can buy, such as accommodation, food and transport, to limit your choices, this information is for you. It outlines how your bank or building society can support you if you have experienced economic abuse in the context of domestic abuse.
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Approaching your bank about abuse can be daunting, but your bank or building society could be an important source of information and support. If it is safe to do so, speaking to someone at your bank or building society can help you take steps to regain control of your money. They may be able to suggest ways of de-linking your finances from those of the abuser. They may also suggest ways of ensuring any new banking information is safe and secure to help prevent further abuse. The bank is there to listen and support you.
There are many ways in which you can contact your bank to tell them about the abuse you have experienced. You can phone the bank or visit the branch in person. Many banks also have the option to share this information with them via their website or app, if you would prefer to do this online.
If you are reporting economic abuse to your bank, you may wish to:
The bank has a duty to support you, and you won’t be penalised or blacklisted for reporting abuse and seeking their support.
There is guidance for banks and building societies from the Financial Conduct Authority on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. This includes customers who have experienced economic abuse. Many banks have also signed up to the 2021 Financial Abuse Code, which guides industry responses to customers who have experienced financial and economic abuse.
Responses can vary across different banks, but the guidance outlines that your bank or building society should:
Your bank may have its own policy on supporting vulnerable customers. You may be able to search online for this. You could also call to ask them about the steps they take to support customers facing difficult circumstances and the options that may be available to you.
There are several ways that your bank can support you to regain control of your finances, if it is safe for you to do so. Your bank should make the options that you have clear to you, without pressurising you to take any specific action.
If you think that someone else may have access to your PIN or online banking passwords, your bank can support you to change these. They can also:
Your bank can help you to remove any access that the abuser may have to your account. They can give additional access to someone you trust, if you request it.
If you have a joint account with the abuser, your bank may be able to help you de-link your finances. They may be able to freeze the account for you, which will stop any payments or withdrawals being made.
Reversing this requires the consent of both parties, so consider carefully whether you want to do this. When a court order is served, the bank is legally required to stop all activity on the account.
Your bank can help you to open a new account that is only in your name to help you manage your money independently. However, you may prefer to open a new account with a different bank to avoid the risk of accounts being linked.
If you do not have access to the documents that are usually needed to prove your identity (such as a passport, driving licence or birth certificate), the bank may be able to accept different documents. This could include letters from a refuge, social worker or local authority.
You can ask for letters to go to an address other than the address the bank has on file for you or ask to receive communication digitally (if you are sure your email account is safe and not accessible by the abuser).
Many of the main banks and building societies offer basic bank accounts. These are often called ‘fee-free accounts’. They are designed for people who may not be able to open a standard current account. They do not have an overdraft and you will not face charges as you would if you were overdrawn.
The abuser may have stopped you from accessing your bank accounts and information about your finances. Your bank can support you to get information about:
You may wish to access your credit report for information on debts that are in your name with other financial providers.
We have information that explains more about how an abuser may be linked to your credit report. This also explains how to make sure that no one can access your address details if you change the address on your credit record.
If the abuser is a cardholder for a credit card in your name, your bank can support you to remove their access. This will prevent them from spending any more.
You can speak to your bank about any changes you may wish to make to your mortgage and the options that may be available to you.
Your bank can support you to access specialist debt advice services for information and advice on how to manage your debts. Many lenders can offer vulnerable customers more flexibility in paying back debts, and may be able to offer support that stops more debt building up.
The banking industry has made strides to improve its service for victim-survivors of economic abuse. However, there are things you can do if your bank does not properly support you.
If you are unhappy with the service from your bank or building society, or if you feel they are not sensitive to your situation, you may wish to complain.
The first step to resolve an issue with your bank is to contact their complaints department. The bank must respond to complaints within eight weeks, and often they try to do so much quicker. Making a complaint will not have a negative effect on your bank account. It may help the bank to provide a better service for you and others in the future.
You can approach the bank in the way that feels most comfortable for you. However, putting your complaint in writing can be a useful record of the issue and the date the complaint was made.
You may wish to highlight what the issue is, the impact it has had on you and the outcome you would like.
If your bank or building society doesn’t resolve your complaint or doesn’t respond within eight weeks, you can report it to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The Financial Ombudsman Service is free and independent. Its role is to settle disputes between consumers and companies. They have the legal power to put things right if they support your complaint. You can make a complaint online.
Last updated March 2022
If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.
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