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How bank accounts are used by financial abusers

18 May 2021

The following article refers to issues of Domestic and Family Violence. If you need support, contact 1800RESPECT. 

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

Billions of us are regular and avid internet users and on social media. And most of us use these channels on our mobile devices.

One of the disturbing consequences of all this connectedness is the shadow of data misuse and the spectre of technology-facilitated stalking and abuse. A survey of domestic violence frontline workers, quoted on the e-Safety Commission's website, showed that 98 percent of respondents had clients who had experienced technology-facilitated stalking and abuse. Often this is throuighg text message, social media channels such as Facebook and even GPS tracking. It's a shocking finding and is not recent. The survey was done in 2015 and since then there have been steps taken by governments and business to find ways to halt the use of technology to abuse people.  

Technology-facilitated abuse includes name calling and put downs; threats to harm; checking text messages and phones without permission; checking on a person’s whereabouts using text, email or instant messaging or GPS; humiliating and punishing someone by threatening to distribute private, intimate photos or videos.

Trolling and abuse also happens through bank descriptors in online transfers. Perpetrators use the transaction descriptor text box to intimidate and abuse their victims and Australian banks have got together to put a stop to the practice.

According to domestic violence workers the amounts being transferred are often quite small (e.g. 10 cents) to allow for multiple abusive messages attached to the transactions.

This is financial abuse and can form part of a strategy used by perpetrators to threaten, intimidate and erode the confidence of the people they are targeting. (Westpac has a comprehensive run down on finacial abuse and the red flags to look out for.)

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

According to Westpac’s Leslie Wilson Vance, group executive of financial crime, compliance and conduct, since the bank began blocking abusive transactions in January 2021, it has refused 4700 approximately transactions from about 3500 customers.

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