Child Financial Exploitation

What is Child Financial Exploitation ?

Child Financial Exploitation (CFE) is the act of taking advantage of a child's financial resources for personal gain, often through deceit, coercion, or manipulation.

CFE can have serious consequences for a child, including financial hardship, damaged credit, emotional distress, and disrupted relationships with family and peers. Children cannot respond to their own exploitation and sometimes CFE is classified as a secondary form of Child Exploitation due to the percieved risks being of lesser consequence than other types. This is not true, and CFE can be highly traumatic for a child who is vulnerable and exposed to risk. CFE can take place in isolation or alongside other forms of Child Exploitation; it is therefore essential for practitioners to identify, prevent, disrupt, stop and record CFE as soon as possible. A contextual safeguarding approach is essential in reducing harm and providing support to a child and their family.

(Laundering the proceeds of crime is a criminal offence under The Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) and carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years. Proceeds may come from crimes such as modern slavery (including human trafficking), drug trafficking and fraud).

Ways in which a child can be financially exploited

Perpetrators can use online platforms such as online gaming networks or social media to exploit the vulnerability and needs of a child. This can include:

Online exploitation: Online gaming and social media can make children increasingly vulnerable to online financial exploitation. This can include cyberbullying, peer-to-peer financial scams, romance scams or grooming by perpetrators who wish to exploit children for financial gain or sexually coerced extortion. Find out more

Identity theft: Perpetrators may steal a child's identity to open bank accounts or apply for loans, or to make purchases and returns, often without the knowledge or consent of a child. This is becuase children typically have clean credit histories making a child easy to target

Fraudulent schemes: Children may be targeted by scams, such as phishing emails, or online advertisements promising rewards or prizes. These schemes trick children into providing personal, financial information or making unauthorised purchases. They can seem very genuine at first glance

Financial abuse by caregivers: In some cases, parents or careres may exploit a child's financial resources for their own benefit. This could involve misusing funds intended for a child's education, or pocketing money from child support or government benefits intended for the child, or coercing the child into providing financial support from Child Trust Funds, for example

Child labour exploitation: Children may be forced or coerced into working in exploitative conditions. This can include situations where children are made to work long hours for little or no pay, they may be denied access to education or healthcare, or subjected to physical or emotional abuse. Find out more

A child may then find themselves in debt bondage for drugs, sex, weapons etc. Currencys can include Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, NFT's, gaming currency and high value material goods such as jewellry or clothing, for example. Children as young as 11 now have access to these ever changing and varying types of currency.

Supporting image

Spotting the signs of CFE

Concerning bank account activity that may be a sign a child is being financially exploited can include:

  • Frequently small amounts paid into their bank accounts
  • More activity than you would expect to see on a child’s gaming account or bank account
  • Cash deposits or transfers from unknown sources on a child's bank account
  • Unaccounted for loot boxes on a child's gaming account / cryptocurrency transactions
  • Transport or accommodation transactions on a child's bank account
  • Large sums of money being transfered in and out of their accounts

A child may display the following signs of financial exploitation:

  • Feeling anxious, frightened, angry, showing signs of emotional distress, or displaying other behaviours that are of concern
  • Responding aggressively when encouraged to discuss finances
  • They may feel shame and self blame
Supporting image

Preventing CFE

How to recognise CFE and what to look out for.

  • Job adverts – Often perpetrators will share a job advert on social media that may include phrases like ‘easy money’ or ‘no experience necessary’. Some of these adverts may also be accompanied by images of lots of cash. If the advert sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. Often these perpetrators can be part of an OCG
  • Lots of spelling errors - A genuine job advert will rarely have spelling errors, this may be a sign the advert is not legitimate
  • Cash points: Perpetrators can approach victims at cashpoints as well as online
  • Messages through social media – Private messages asking if someone wants to make quick cash or easy money. If someone suspects an account on social media is acting suspiciously, they can report it and block that account
  • Asking to share bank details – information about your PIN should not be shared

Read more at Fearless, from Crmestoppers here

It is important for children to be educated in spotting the signs but equally important to ensure the correct safeguarding response is considered when a child is being abused.

Supporting image

Keeping open lines of communication is essential to help a child feel safe and practitioners should be aware that there could be an overlap with other types of exploitation, but not in all cases. A child may be sexually, criminally and financially exploited simultaneously.

Next steps to consider
  • What to do if you suspect CFE?
    Show details
    • CONTACT: West Yorkshire Police
    • CONTACT: Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)
    • CONTACT: Integrated Front Door (IFD)
    • Refer: National Referral Mechanism (NRM)
    • Use: Screening Tool
    • use: Other reporting tools:
    Consider the following:
      West Yorkshire Police

      If a child is in immediate danger, call 999.

      For guidance and support on what to do if you suspect CSE you can call 101.

      If you have information that you want to share with the police you can do so by submitting it via the Partnership Intelligence Portal (PIP)
      Children Vulnerable to Exploitation (CVE) Screening Tool

      Coming soon
      Integrated Front Door (IFD)

      Visit the WSCP website
      worried about a child page for all information relating to the IFD and MASH team
    • Refer
      National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

      NRM guidance here

      Report any incidents of Modern slavery here

      Members of the public should call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700 or 
      report it online.
    • Use
      LADO: Allegations against a professional

      Refer to the WSCP
      LADO one minute guide for more information

    • use
      Other reporting tools:

      Call Ivison (formally PACE) on 0113 240 3040
      Text the British Transport Police on 61016
      Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
      Call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000
      Call the Modern Slavery Helpline 0800 012 1700 or fill in their 
      online form.
      Call the bank to report a crime
      Get in touch: UK Finance, Action Fraud & Cifas
  • How Professional Curiosity & Challenge can help you
    Show details
    Being professionally curious and challenging is essential when it comes to identifying child financial exploitation, and the risks this may pose to the child which can be as serious as death, if a child is groomed by an OCG, or they are at risk of self harm and suicide ideation.

    To understand what is meant by professional curiosity and challenge in the district and how to adopt this approach, please click below.

    Learn more about professional curiosity and challenge on the WSCP webpages here


  • Appropriate Language in Relation to Child Exploitation
    Show details
    This document seeks to provide guidance to professionals on the appropriate use of language when discussing children and their experience of exploitation in a range of contexts.

    To access the guidance, please click here.

One Minute Guide
  • Child Financial Exploitation
    Show details
    Child Financial Exploitation is on the increase and is more common than you think. Children are being groomed by perpetrators into opening bank accounts and launder money. Read more here

    To view the Child Exploitation series of One Minute Guides visit our Child Exploitation Learning and Development page and read more about online, child criminal, child trafficking, modern slavery and financial exploitation.

Quick Links

Join our #SpeakUpStandUp Campaign

Tell me more information about the #SpeakUpStandUp campaign!