What is financial exploitation?

11th May 2023 | Modern slavery

The Clewer Initiative

Modern Slavery encompasses many different forms of exploitation. We hear a lot about labour exploitation and sexual exploitation but less about forced fraud and financial exploitation.

We asked the Threat Leadership Command at National Crime Agency to explain how financial exploitation works:

“Financial exploitation is where offenders coerce victims into committing financial actions subject to penalty for the exploiter’s gain. Exploiters may even set up accounts in the victims’ name without their knowledge in order to conduct further transactions and illegal activity.

“Financial exploitation is often observed alongside another form of exploitation, such as sexual or labour exploitation, and is used as a further mechanism to control victims and as an additional income stream for exploiters.

“Victims are often targeted based on existing vulnerabilities such as age, disability, homelessness, inability to speak English, or any other characteristic that makes them easier to coerce and/or control, such as having the same nationality as offenders."

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"In order to financially exploit victims, offenders may:

• Coerce victims into opening bank accounts or providing bank account details that will then be controlled by the exploiter.

• Coerce victims into taking out credit cards, loans, mobile phone contracts, overdrafts, or vehicle finance.

• Use victims’ identities and details for financial transactions linked to criminality so that offenders can distance themselves from that criminality. This may include opening additional accounts in victims’ names that they may later use to commit fraud against third parties.

• Commit benefit fraud by forcing victims to fraudulently claim benefits or claiming benefits in the victim’s name unbeknown to them.

• Force victims to have their identities and bank accounts used during the laundering of proceeds of crime.

"Financial exploitation has a profound and lasting impact on victims, both psychologically and in terms of financial and credit damage, jeopardising their ability to obtain financial accounts and access credit once the exploitation has ended."

A recent example

Local police came across an example of financial exploitation involving a teenage boy. His father knew nothing about the pressure and threats his son was facing until he found letters from banks demanding money back.

We are seeing a lot more cases of financial exploitation, where people are tricked into going into debt and then held in bondage. Once gangs have a hold over individuals, they apply huge pressure, threats and blackmail and coerce them into online crime.

Local police force

Watch his story

When we investigated the evidence, it became clear that this local teenager had got sucked into an extremely, dark and complex serious crime organisation. Criminals are working across the world, luring teenagers and vulnerable adults into unseen crime and leaving them frightened and trapped.

Local police

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