fbpx
Your safety
Only take the actions below if it is safe to do so. You are the best judge of whether making any changes might lead to further harm. In an emergency, call 999.

Economic abuse and the postal service

If you are leaving an abuser, you will be making some very brave decisions and taking some very important steps to reach safety. Your mail might be the last thing on your mind.

This resource is designed to support you to think about the ways in which an abuser might have interfered with your mail or may do so after separation, and the effects this may have on your economic wellbeing. It also can help you take the necessary steps to keep you safe and regain control.

“I missed lots of warning letters from creditors and didn’t even know I was being made bankrupt until papers were served on me.”

Economic abuse and your mail

It is common for abusers to intercept post. In fact, Citizen’s Advice found that 47% of victim-survivors have had their mail hidden, opened, or intercepted by the abuser. This facilitates economic abuse by controlling access to vital information about your employment, benefits or finances.

Examples of important letters that an abuser could keep from you include: 

  • Utility bills and reminder letters, which could lead to debt if ignored.
  • Collection notices and County Court judgements, which may lead to a poor credit rating.
  • A benefits letter containing an appointment date, leading to non-attendance at a benefits assessment, having benefits stopped or benefits sanctions.
  • Forms from HMRC related to self-assessment leading to a fine and being paid too much child benefit (which has to be paid back with interest).

Ways an abuser might use your mail include:

  • Using information sent through the post to take control of your finances.
  • Taking out credit in the your name.
  • Changing accounts into the your name and then stopping payments.
  • Checking how much money you have.
  • Checking whether you have spent money, and what on.
  • Controlling how much of your own money you can spend.
  • Using financial information, such as new debit cards and PINs that came through the post, to transfer, spend or withdraw money from your account.
  • Taking cash gifts sent through the post by family.

Like other forms of economic abuse, the interception of post also overlaps with other forms of coercive control such as checking a survivor’s movements via bank statements; and seeing when and where survivors spend money on petrol.

Economic abuse via the interception of post might also pose additional barriers to leaving, with loss of income, little or no access to funds, being left in thousands of pounds of debt and having a poor credit rating.

Using your mail to take out credit

A third of victim-survivors who had their post intercepted said the perpetrator did this through applying for loans in their name, intercepting applications and paperwork for credit cards, mortgages, loans and transfer of ownership and forging their signature.

“My ex-husband deliberately got me into debt and applied for loans in my name without my knowledge. I was the only one working so he would stay at home all day then hide the letters which came through the post. Even after I ended the relationship and the police removed him from the property he would break in and steal post. I missed lots of warning letters from creditors and didn’t even know I was being made bankrupt until papers were served on me.”

‘Address & Collect’

In a report called Millions Without Mail, Citizens Advice calls on the government to invest in an ‘Address & Collect’ service. A person’s post could be directed to their local post office, which would keep it safe for them to collect at a time that is convenient.

‘Address & Collect’ would also provide victim-survivors with a free, usable address that cannot be used to track down their whereabouts.

Citizens Advice also highlight that it is vital for this type of address to be accepted on applications and by institutions such as banks. You can read more about the proposed service in their report.

How Royal Mail can help

Royal Mail has two services that can enable victim-survivors to take control of their mail without alerting anyone else of their whereabouts:

Redirection

If you have recently moved home, the Royal Mail redirection service will ensure that your mail reaches you at your new address. When setting up a redirection, the standard procedure is to send a confirmation letter to the old address. However, if you have moved because of personal safety concerns, you call the specialist team on 03457 777 888, rather than apply online. All calls are confidential.  

Post Office (PO) Box

A PO Box can provide you with a private and confidential address. There are three variations of the PO Box service which may be helpful depending on circumstances:

  • Delivery – This service provides the customer with an address that they can give to others whilst the mail is delivered to the person’s actual address.
  • Collect – With this service, Royal Mail holds the mail and the customer collects it from their local Royal Mail Customer Service Point (CSP) during its opening hours.
  • Transfer – With this service Royal Mail will hold the mail addressed to the PO Box as well as the customer’s personal mail. The customer collects all their mail from their local CSP during its opening hours.

When setting up a PO Box service, standard procedure is to send confirmation of the details to the normal address by post. If you are moving for personal safety concerns, Royal Mail recommends calling 03457 740 740, rather than applying online, so confirmation is not sent to their normal address. All calls are confidential.

These options can come with a cost, however, and may not be safe or convenient for everyone. You are in the best position to know what will be safe for you or not.

Bank letters

Banks and building societies can temporarily offer to send a customer’s correspondence to a local bank branch rather than to a home address. This varies between banks. You might want to ask to speak the banks vulnerable customer team to find out about options available.

You can read more about how banks can help you if your are experiencing economic abuse here.

Receiving the abuser’s mail

In some cases, abusers continue to use the victim-survivor’s address for their post even after separation. This can result in numerous letters arriving to the address, which can be intimidating and have a significant emotional impact.

Royal Mail suggests to cross out the address on the envelope and mark ‘not known at this address’ or ‘no longer lives here’ and then to post the envelope back. No forwarding address or postage is required.

If you continue to receive mail you might want to consider contacting the Royal Mail specialist team on 03457 777 888.

Last updated January 2021

Further support 

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.

References

Exit
Site