This week we've been talking all about the Tinder Swindler, from why the women involved have been labelled 'gold-diggers' by some, the topic of financial vulnerability and why you might not be quite so immune to being swindled as you think.
Then this story landed in my inbox. It was in response to a question about how many of you regret the financial support you've given a partner - not fraud exactly but putting yourself in a financially vulnerable position, all in the name of love. This story is an extreme illustration of just that and is an example of financial abuse.
Please see the end of the article for resources.
As always, please respond kindly - make the comments a place of encouragement 💛
How did this all start?
When I was 14 my Mum opened a bank account in my name for her to use. I was unaware at the time that she had done it to ensure that money wasn’t taken away by the banks due to an overdraft she hadn’t paid.
How was she able to open an account in your name?
I was 14, she took me to Nationwide to open an account, it was a child’s account. I remember going into the branch and her asking about setting me up an account, they talked about what it would be used for and my mom said ‘pocket money. I never got pocket money, I don’t know why I didn’t clock something then. I kind of just sat there while they verified I was a person. I was really chuffed that I was gonna have an account, like ‘look at me in such an adult’ lol! When my card came my Mum kept it as her money was going in there. It wasn’t even really like it was my account, she had full control of it. Until I turned 16, I got a part-time job and needed a bank account.
When did she start taking out credit?
Everything seemed fine. We were never well off and my mum was never good with money so by ‘fine’ I suppose I mean living pretty much hand to mouth with bailiffs coming to the door... None of this I really understood at the time but that was just normal to me. When I turned 18 my Mum must’ve been up to her eyeballs in debt and asked me to take out a payday loan. Again, at the time, I didn’t really understand the concept, we needed food, electricity etc. so of course, I agreed. I didn’t want my little brother to go without. The first time she asked, I remember her saying she couldn’t afford to pay it as she hadn’t been paid correctly. She asked if I could cover it and she’d pay it and pay me back. This carried on for some maybe a couple of years, all the time I was digging myself further and further into a hole, I had an overdraft, that thinking about it now I don’t know how I even got it.
So you had to pay off the loans?
Yes, so then this forced me to pay the loans back because they were in my name. Once I left college and was in full-time work, the loans had been cyclical for quite some time. I can’t quite remember when my Mum stopped asking me to use these companies. But I do remember sitting in my bedroom crying because things were so bad. My Mum came in I told her I literally had no money left, I couldn’t afford it. She hugged me and I cried - she said we’ll sort it out. I think that must have been the catalyst for her not asking me or getting a loan again.
How much credit did she take out in your name?
I can’t really be sure of the amount, I’d say around £50,000 plus interest over around a 5 or 6 year period.
When did it stop?
It wasn’t until I started working for a finance company when I was 22 that I started to understand finance, credit scores and how they worked. My dreams of buying a house had been dashed due to a default on my credit file at the time. It was my overdraft that had defaulted, so not my Mum's loan. But I now see it as a result of trying to keep on top of her payday loans.
Do you now see this as financial abuse?
It’s only years later now the term financial abuse has started to become a thing that I recognise it as something I have been a victim of. With the understanding my job gave me I referred my Mum to several places that could help, I suggested an IVA which she declined until last year when she finally set hers up. My mom still and always will I suspect ask me to borrow money. Sometimes, I do oblige but now only small amounts with no expectation I’d actually receive it back.
Do you wish there had been better protection in place for you?
I do wish there was something in place but I’m not sure it would be something that is easily recognisable. I do think that if both my mom and I had been properly educated about finances at school, my Mum may not have been in the situation. But more importantly, I would have recognised what was happening and helped her properly especially towards the end of school. It wasn’t until I got a job at a finance company that I even knew there was such a thing as a credit file.
Did you pay it all back or get help?
When I joined the finance company I learnt all about debt management plans and how to help a customer and I just used those tools to help myself. I went to StepChange and set up a plan and paid it from there I did get some omens back when one of the loan companies were told to pay back money to its customers. And I’m very lucky that my current job has one hell of a share scheme. Which has got me where I am today and has helped me to become a homeowner 😊
What’s your relationship like with your Mum now?
It’s quite good - we speak most weeks, she’s finally in an IVA, she still borrows money from me but nothing like on the scale it was before and more importantly, I say no or that I can’t afford it when I can’t. My mum, as far as I am aware, isn’t aware that what she did could be seen as financial abuse. I have always likened our relationship to me being the Mum and her the Daughter. I do have a lot of empathy for her situation at the time and even now I know she’s not where she’d like to be but she’s getting there.
What is financial abuse?
If reading this story has left you wondering whether you might have been the victim of financial abuse, here are some resources:
Where to get help
Firstly, we need to recognise how difficult it is for people experiencing financial abuse to get help. It often coexists with other forms of abuse so taking action is often scary.
You can call Refuge’s confidential National Domestic Abuse Hotline for free on 0808 200 0247, or visit
Check out Surviving Economic Abuse for resources
Try to keep hold of important paperwork such as your passport, NI number, payslips etc.☁️
Worried about being caught out by your abuser?
You can ask your bank for advice on setting up a new, secret account and having letters sent to an address that isn't your home
💳 What if someone has taken out debt in your name?
If someone has taken out debt in your name, contact the provider immediately
You should also contact the credit reference agencies and tell them you’re a victim of identity fraud. They should investigate and potentially update your records.You can also call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, use the Action Fraud online reporting tool or visit the FCA ScamSmart website.
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