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How bank accounts are used by financial abusers

12 November 2019

The following article refers to issues of Domestic and Family Violence. If you need support, contact 1800RESPECT. For cyber bullying, online harassment, Image Based Abuse

Call Triple Zero (000) if you are in immediate danger.

Contact your local police if there are threats to your safety or there are threats to your friends or family members.

Young Woman Worried About What She Is Seeing Online

According to we are social, which conducts what it terms “global digital stat shots” each quarter -  informing its research as an online marketing business - 4.39 billion of us were internet users in 2019, and  3.48 billion of us were on social media. The figures were up nine percent from 2018.

In Australia, internet and social media penetration including on mobile devices is high. Walk down the street – especially in urbanised areas – and witness how true that is.

One of the disturbing consequences of all this connectedness is the amount of technology-facilitated stalking and abuse people experience. According to a 2015 survey of domestic violence frontline workers quoted on the Office of e-Safety’s website, 98% of respondents had clients who had experienced technology-facilitated stalking and abuse.

Further summarising the survey’s findings, the Office of e-Safety lists out the way technology is used in this fashion as well as the platforms on which stalking and abuse happen:

abuse (name calling and put downs)

threaten (threats to harm)

monitor (checking text messages and phones without permission)

check on a woman’s whereabouts using text, email or instant messaging or GPS

humiliate and punish (threatening to distribute private, intimate photos or videos)

Technology-facilitated abuse happens on platforms, including: 

text message (80%) 

Facebook (82%)

mobile phones (82%)

email (52%)

GPS tracking (29%)

Recently, we became aware that trolling and abuse has also been happening through bank descriptors in online transfers. Perpetrators use the transaction descriptor text box to intimidate and abuse their victims.

The Office of e-Safety, through accounts from frontline domestic violence workers, is also aware this is happening. According to domestic violence workers the amounts being transferred are often quite small (e.g. 10 cents) to allow for multiple ‘transactions’ and abusive messages.

This sort of behaviour is considered financial abuse. It often forms part of a strategy used by perpetrators to threaten, intimidate and erode the confidence of their victims. Other warning signs of financial abuse can be much more subtle but no less abusive.

For example: You’re being pressured to sign a document, such as a blank withdrawal form or blank loan application, or feel you are being misled about what you are being asked to sign.

Your bills haven't been paid, even though you have entrusted someone to do this for you.

Your property or possessions are being used without your permission.

You are feeling pressured to take out a loan for another person’s benefit.

For more information on financial abuse, see here.

In the case of financial abuse or if you notice unusual activity on or within your accounts make a complaint to your bank either online, on the phone or in branch.

To speak with a specialist team at Westpac who can help you manage your finances during difficult circumstances, call Priority Assist on 1800 063 509.

Report online abuse to Office of e-Safety and if you are experiencing technology-facilitated abuse of any sort, it also has advice to help you stay safe.

Safer Internet Day is February 11, see here for more.


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