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Mate crime

Mate crime is a form of hate crime and can be a very serious form of abuse.

The term Mate crime is used where people within communities, particularly people with learning disabilities, mental health or substance misuse issues and older people  are befriended with the intention of them being abused and exploited financially, physically, emotionally, sexually or otherwise. In some cases, victims of mate crime have been significantly harmed or even killed.

This can include a friend asking for money and refusing to give it back, or emotional or physical abuse by a person they thought was their friend. Those that commit such abuse or theft are often referred to as ‘fake friends’.

There are different forms of mate crime, which can include:

  • Theft/financial abuse – the abuser might demand or ask to be lent money and then not pay it back or the abuser might misuse the property of the adult, or take their benefits from them.
  • Cuckooing – the abuser might take over the person’s home and visit or stay there, despite the person not wanting them to.
  • Physical assault/abuse – the abuser might hurt or injure the adult which may ultimately result in death.
  • Harassment or emotional abuse – the abuser might manipulate, mislead and make the person feel worthless. This includes name calling and grooming the person for criminal activities.
  • Sexual assault/abuse – the abuser might harm or take advantage of the person sexually.

Often, these different types of abuse do not happen in isolation – abusers may subject their victims to multiple other forms of abuse.

Features of Mate crime

Mate crimes are likely to happen in private, often in the victim’s own accommodation. They can also happen via social media, where victims are financially or sexually exploited after being befriended online. Frequently the person at the centre of the abuse will consider the person using harmful behaviour to be a friend, and not recognise that they are being abused and exploited.

Certain factors may make a person more susceptible to Mate crime

  • having limited close family or friends
  • a physical or learning disability
  • mental health issues
  • misusing drugs and/or alcohol
  • isolation from the community
  • having low self esteem

Identifying Mate crime

Indicators of mate crime can be similar to other forms of abuse. Potential signs include:

  • bills not being paid, a sudden lack of money, losing possessions, suddenly changing their will
  • may have more money than usual, expensive gifts etc.
  • changes in routine, behaviour, appearance, finances or household (new people visiting or staying over, lots of new ‘friends’, lots more noise or rubbish than normal)
  • cutting themselves off from established networks of friends/family and support, missing weekly activities
  • secretive internet or mobile phone use.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Losing or gaining weight.
  • A lack of self care
  • Showing signs of mental health problems.
  • A friend who does not respect, bullies or undermines the person.

Are you concerned that some is taking advantage of you or someone you know?

You can report your concern here

Torbay and Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership have adopted the Tricky Friends animation to support with awareness regarding this form of exploitation.

Nottingham Community Housing have produced this video to raise awareness of Hate crime and Mate crime.

Further Information on Mate crime can be found at: 

Getting help

Victim Support

Victim support is an independent charity, who work towards a world where people affected by crime or traumatic events get the support they need and the respect they deserve. They help people feel safer and find the strength to move beyond crime. Their support is free, confidential and tailored to your needs.

08 08 16 89 111


Mencap offer advice and support to people with a learning disability.

0808 808 1111

Devon and Cornwall Police

Devon and Cornwall Police provide advice for the public and professionals if you are concerned that someone may be at risk of being a victim of Mate Crime