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‘Shocking’: Major bank blocks 2,500 transactions for concerning reason

·3-min read
Signage on a Westpac bank is displayed in Melbournes central business district on September 24, 2020. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Westpac has blocked 2,500 transactions in the last few months due to offensive or abusive language, and is now threatening to ban repeat offenders.

The bank said it will roll out a tool enabling customers to report harassment and abuse received through payment descriptions, while Westpac will also continue to block outgoing transactions committing the act.

Abusers have previously been able to make multiple small-value transactions in order to send messages that would otherwise be blocked on social media.

Customers who receive a deposit with an offending description from a sender with another bank will be able to report the transaction, and Westpac will decide whether to notify the sender’s financial institution or send a warning.

And Westpac customers who send the abusive messages will be warned, and ultimately banned from the bank if their behaviour doesn’t improve.

Westpac research found one in two Australians have received abuse either through social media, email or mobile, while one in four also admit to having used inappropriate language in transactions.

“It’s shocking that individuals are using real-time payment transactions to harass and threaten others, often circumventing blocks on other channels like SMS and social media to reach the recipient,” Westpac general manager customer solutions Lisa Pogonoski said.

She said some of the messages contained domestic violence threats, with some individuals also repeatedly targeted.

“While the vast majority of customers use our platforms respectfully, these steps will help provide more protection for customers sending and receiving payments through our online and mobile banking channels,” she said.

“We want to be clear that we have zero tolerance for this behaviour and will continue to crackdown on individuals who are not using our digital platforms appropriately, including exiting customers.”

NAB recently announced a similar response to abusive messages, while CommBank has been working to address the practice since June 2020.

At the time, it described the practice as “horrifying” in both scale and nature.

On Tuesday, CommBank group executive human resources, Sian Lewis, said the bank was glad to see Westpac was now also taking steps to confront the issue.

“Technology-facilitated abuse can have a long-term and damaging impact on victims. It’s our responsibility to make digital banking a safe place for our customers to conduct their daily activities without the fear of being threatened of harassed,” Lewis told Yahoo Finance.

“It will take a whole of industry approach to properly address this issue so we’re pleased to see other banks starting to address the problem as well.”

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.

Take control of your money and learn to maximise it with the Women’s Money Movement! Join the club on LinkedIn and follow Yahoo Finance Australia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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