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How bank accounts are used by financial abusers

01 February 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

According to we are social, globally 4.54 billion of us were internet users in 2020, and 3.8 billion of us were on social media. The figures were up seven and nine percent from 2019. 5.19 billion of us use mobile phones.

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 e-Safety’ Commission's website, 98% of respondents had clients who had experienced technology-facilitated stalking and abuse.

The Commission goes on to list out the way technology is used in this fashion: 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 these platforms: 

text message (80%) 

Facebook (82%)

mobile phones (82%)

email (52%)

GPS tracking (29%)

Trolling and abuse also happens through bank descriptors in online transfers. Perpetrators use the transaction descriptor text box to intimidate and abuse their victims. 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 their targets. For more, 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.

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.