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Transaction messages that could block your bank account: ‘I love you’

NAB is working to stamp out financial abuse, with new rules that could block accounts.

A man walks by a NAB branch while talking on the phone and a person removing money from a wallet.
NAB is cracking down on financial abuse. (Source: Getty)

NAB customers who are engaging in financial abuse could have their accounts blocked by the major bank.

NAB announced an important update to its terms and conditions that would allow bankers to ‘cut off’ customers who’ve been identified as committing financial abuse.

The new reference to ‘unacceptable account conduct’ officially puts customers on notice that the bank could suspend, cancel or deny individuals access to their savings and transaction accounts if the bank identifies them as engaging in financial abuse.

NAB head of customer vulnerability Michael Chambers said financial abuse was a common tactic used by perpetrators to control individuals.

“Concerns about financial abuse remain one of the top reasons customers get in touch with our customer support team, NAB Assist,” Chambers said.

“If a NAB account holder is now found to be perpetrating financial abuse, we will be able to suspend or terminate their services.”

Blocked words and phrases

Since January 2022, NAB has blocked more than 200,000 abusive transactions using technology that searches for key words and phrases.

“Right now, we’re blocking around 15,000 abusive messages each month sent through payment channels, and today’s move further puts financial abusers on notice that we will do everything we can to protect innocent people,” Chambers said.

NAB said there were more than 1,300 words and phrases on its red flag list. Typical abusive messages contain explicit language and name calling.

More subtle examples may not appear abusive but, in the context of persistent messaging, constitute threatening, intimidating, abusive or harassing behaviour, such as:

  • "Why won't you reply to my messages?"

  • "Call me back"

  • "If you don't call me I'm going to hurt myself"

  • "I love you"

What is financial abuse?

Chambers said financial abuse could take many forms, including where an individual is denied access to their own funds or has their funds misused by another individual.

“This form of control can occur between couples, family members or relationships where one person is providing care for another,” he said.

“We’re taking a firm stand against financial abuse, and we aren’t resting there. We’re working with other banks to help develop a consistent approach across the industry.”

What to do if you’re being financially abused

NAB offers support to individuals who have experienced financial abuse, domestic and family violence through a range of initiatives:

  • Abusive transaction prevention in mobile and internet banking to block and investigate abusive messages

  • Domestic and family violence grants of up to $2,500 are available to support customers fleeing domestic violence circumstances

  • No Interest Loans (NILs) in partnership with Good Shepherd to support people who have experienced domestic and family violence

  • Referrals to support services, including Uniting CareRing, Benestar, Ask Izzy, 1800Respect, WIRE and Relationships Australia

“NAB is here to help. Our NAB Assist team speaks to more than 1,000 customers a day needing financial support, including victims of domestic and family violence, and financial abuse,” Chambers said.

“For most of these calls, it is the first time a customer has had to pick up the phone and say to the bank, ‘I need help’, which we know can be daunting.”

Customers who need support can contact NAB on 1800 701 599.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, find help by visiting Lifeline or calling 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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