A disturbing trend of Aussies using bank transactions to stalk, harass or threaten victims has been increasing, according to AUSTRAC.
The Fintel Alliance has been drawing attention to how Aussies are being targeted through the description field in online transactions, so perpetrators can avoid law-enforcement scrutiny.
AUSTRAC is working with businesses and financial institutions to help recognise the warning signs for when someone is being targeted.
Key indicators of financial transactions being used for criminal activity include a high volume of payments at a low value. Payments can be as low as $0.01 and are typically below $10.
For example, if someone is receiving numerous payments for $0.01, this may be a sign they’re a victim of this abuse.
AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose said the financial sector had an important role to play in helping to prevent and stop abuse through their payment platforms.
“We are concerned about the increase in use of financial transaction text fields for the purposes of domestic and family violence and criminal activity,” she said.
“With our Fintel Alliance partners, we are calling on the financial services sector to understand this emerging risk, and take action to protect their customers and the Australian community.”
AUSTRAC said if you or someone you know is experiencing offensive or threatening messages through payment text fields, report the issue immediately to your financial service provider.
Misuse of payment fields is an increasing risk to the Australian community.
Westpac research found one in two (51 per cent) Australians had received some form of online abuse including via email, mobile and social media channels.
Additionally, one in four (26 per cent) admitted to having used some form of inappropriate language in payment transactions.
Family and domestic violence continues to increase in Australia, with 2020 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing more than a third of homicide victims in Australia were family and domestic-violence-related incidents.
White Ribbon Australia executive director Brad Chilcott said the use of coercive control to stalk, intimidate and harass was unacceptable and should be criminalised accordingly.
“Australians want perpetrators of coercive control held to account, and they want to stop more people from this kind of intimate abuse in the future,” Chilcott said.
What are the banks doing?
Australia’s Big Four banks have condemned the act in the past, vowing to crack down on the issue to protect customers.
In February this year, Westpac said it had blocked 2,500 transactions due to offensive or abusive language, and threatened to ban repeat offenders.
Similarly, Commonwealth Bank said any customer found to be using its app or NetBank to send defamatory, harassing, threatening or unlawful messages would have their transactions refused.
NAB has blocked descriptions in internet transfers that contain abusive, threatening or explicit language.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.
For counselling, advice and support call MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or www.mensline.org.au.
In an emergency or if you’re not feeling safe, always call 000.