Commonwealth Bank will suspend users from online banking after finding abuse in online transaction descriptions.
Commonwealth Bank will suspend users from online banking after finding abuse in online transaction descriptions.

Disturbing domestic violence discovery in bank accounts

Commonwealth Bank will move to suspend users from online banking services, and refuse transactions, after discovering details of abuse in digital transaction descriptions.

"After noticing disturbing messages in the account of a customer experiencing domestic and family violence, we conducted analysis to better understand the problem," General Manager of Community and Customer Vulnerability, Catherine Fitzpatrick, told 9 News.

"We were horrified by both the scale and the nature of what we found."

The abusive messages were found after a review of CBA's digital banking platforms.

"In a three-month period, we identified more than 8000 CBA customers who received multiple low-value deposits, often less than $1, with potentially abusive messages in the transaction descriptions - in effect using them as a messaging service," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Commonwealth Bank will move to suspend users from online banking services, and refuse transactions, after discovering details of abuse in digital transaction descriptions. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Commonwealth Bank will move to suspend users from online banking services, and refuse transactions, after discovering details of abuse in digital transaction descriptions. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

She said that both males and females were sending and receiving the messages, which ranged from "fairly innocuous 'jokes' using profanities" to "serious threats and clear references to domestic and family violence".

Australia's biggest bank has now introduced an Acceptable Use Policy, meaning any customer found to be using CBA's digital platforms to defame, harass or threaten may have their transactions refused or access to digital banking suspended.

"These changes will ensure that all customers can enjoy the benefits of digital banking in a safe and secure way and represents our first step to address the issue of technology-facilitated abuse," Ms Fitzpatrick said, adding the bank's customers should "feel safe" using online services.

CEO of the Australian Banking Association, Anna Bligh, said the need for an analysis of transaction descriptions showed the lengths abusers will go to contact victims.

ABA CEO Anna Bligh said the use of bank transactions to threaten abuse gives a “shocking insight” into the lengths violent partners will go to. Picture: AAP Image/Paul Braven
ABA CEO Anna Bligh said the use of bank transactions to threaten abuse gives a “shocking insight” into the lengths violent partners will go to. Picture: AAP Image/Paul Braven

"The use of bank transaction communications as a vehicle for threatening abuse gives a shocking insight into the lengths that violent partners will go to threaten, harass and abuse," Ms Bligh said.

"CBA have done their customers a great service in identifying this abuse and taking swift action to stop it."

Ms Bligh said anyone with concerns should contact their bank.

The industry and the Australian government's financial intelligence unit, AUSTRAC, have also agreed that people suffering domestic violence will be able to prove their identity by ways other than showing a driver's licence or birth certificate.

Financial abuse was often part of this violence, AUSTRAC said, in which victims were denied access to bank accounts.

 

 

- With AAP

 

Originally published as Disturbing discovery in Aussie accounts