The warning signs of family fraud

The idea that a close family member could be actively trying to scam you doesn’t bear thinking about.

Unfortunately, this is a type of crime that exists and is becoming increasingly common. Earlier this year, it was reported that young people are losing three times as much money as their parents’ generation due to family and friends fraud.

But how do you know if it’s happening to you? Although this is clearly a reality you wouldn’t want to give thought to, one of the following warning signs might just ring true with your situation:

Warning sign 1: you’re running short of money each month

If a family member shares your bank account or has a joint credit card with you and seems to be flying high while you’re becoming increasingly hard-up, there may be cause for concern.

Are they doing something with your cash that means you’re ending up with little to account for at the end of each month?

Warning sign 2: new purchases start to appear – regularly

Have delivery vans started to make an all too regular appearance at your front door? Do extravagant purchases keep arriving unexpectedly?

Depending on how you’re related to the person who might be committing family fraud, it would be understandable for you to view such purchases as simply part and parcel of living with and loving someone.

While this might be the case and their self indulgence entirely innocent, if you’re concerned, there could be more to it.

Warning sign 3: physical abuse

Financial abuse is often accompanied by physical abuse.

If you feel physically threatened in any way and have suspicions about where your money is going, talk to Voice, a trusted professional or another family member.

Warning sign 4: an insistence that “everything will be taken care of”

If a member of your family is overly insistent that they should look after your financial matters and, months later, you appear to be far worse off than before, there may be more to it than a genuine desire to help.

Always stay as involved as you can in your own finances. If a close family member demonstrates a desire to assist with your money, there should be a solid reason for doing so, and it should never result in you leaving the management of your hard earned cash entirely to them.

What should I do?

In the first instance – and if you feel comfortable doing so – it’s advisable to speak to the family member in question and voice your concerns.

The reality might be far different and not at all related to fraud, but if you have the sort of relationship where you can broach subjects of this nature (without immediately accusing them of being fraudulent, of course), then it’s only fair to do so.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, it might be worth contacting a trusted professional such as an accountant or banker to find out what might be happening and gain an impartial perspective on the situation.

The following tasks are also advisable:

  • Request duplicate statements from your bank (if the account is joint)
  • Consider stopping all Direct Debits and standing orders so you can discuss exactly what needs paying each month
  • Take jobs such as ‘the weekly shop’ off your family member’s hands and see if your finances improve once you take charge
  • Use a service such as Experian to run a credit check on yourself – the results might be enlightening
  • Look for consistent debits in your account from department stores (i.e. same amount and date each month) – this might indicate the existence of a store card that you’re not aware of

Family fraud is deceitful and unbearably cruel, but it’s unfortunately an easy target for the scammer.

If you recognise any of the warning signs above, Voice is here for you. Talk to one of our experienced, specialist advisors for free, impartial advice.

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