Bank payment references used to send abusive messages

May 27, 2021

Every month, thousands of abusive and coercive messages are being sent in the reference fields of bank payments. Now, banks want abusers to know: ”We can see you.” ..

“People can be quite creative in finding ways to control, harass and abuse their partners or former partners, so it doesn’t surprise me that people have discovered this way of doing it” says Holly Carrington from Shine…

AUT financial abuse researcher Ayesha Scott says “[Sending obscene references] is exerting control over that person’s future dealings and that’s classic coercive control and classic domestic violence.”..

BNZ is still refining its ability to monitor transaction abuse but did not want to wait any longer to address the problem, Martin King says. “The first thing is to say, ‘We can see you.’”

Where the recipient of abuse is a bank customer, specially-trained staff will now contact them to ensure the messages are unwanted before offering what support they can. That could include setting up a new account for the person, helping them route payments like child support through IRD rather than receiving them directly, and referring them to external organisations like Shine or Women’s Refuge…

ASB has also road-tested the data tool developed by CommBank to screen for abusive messages, the spokesperson says. “We intend to continue working to understand the scale and complexities of this problem and the most appropriate way to ensure banking is safe for everyone.”

At Westpac NZ, whose Australian operation jumped on the issue at the start of this year, shocking levels of abuse were also found on its platform, according to general manager of consumer banking and wealth Gina Dellabarca. She says over a two-month period, the bank flagged more than 35,000 transactions by 13,000 customers as containing some type of bad language, and while the “absolute majority of that was banter”, a deep dive found at least 50 customers had been impacted in a harmful way. “..when you drilled down further there were also some quite [abusive] comments, like death threats, manipulative comments and degrading language towards women.”

From Stuff, article by Kate Newton 23/5/21, and The Spinoff article by Jihee Junn 24/6/21

Read Stuff article here

Read The Spinoff article here