Banks beef up guidelines to spot signs of financial abuse

AAP
Bank staff will be trained to better detect signs of financial abuse and report them to the relevant authorities.
Camera IconBank staff will be trained to better detect signs of financial abuse and report them to the relevant authorities. Credit: JOEL CARRETT/METHODE

Australia’s banks have revamped their guidelines to help bank staff identify signs of financial abuse against family members and elderly people.

The Australian Banking Association says the update is part of an industry-wide focus on preventing family violence and elder abuse.

“This kind of behaviour is a form of domestic violence,” ABA chief executive Anna Bligh said. “It can be an enabler for partners to keep women trapped in abusive and often dangerous relationships.

“It’s also used against the elderly. Elder abuse can take many forms.”

Elder abuse can include spending money without permission, forging signatures, duping seniors into signing documents and using banks accounts or credit cards without consent. It can also involve loans that are never paid back, or coercing a person to be guarantor on a loan.

The association warns financial abuse increases during times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, floods and bushfires.

Under the revised guidelines, bank staff will be trained to better detect signs of financial abuse and report them to the relevant authorities.

Staff will also be trained in recommending safer account settings and assisting victims of domestic violence to set up new accounts.

The revised guidelines reflect the role of digital banking in financial abuse, with the ABA warning of new risks like using a message in a digital transaction description to threaten or intimidate someone.

“Bank staff are well trained to spot red flags and respond to cases of financial abuse,” Ms Bligh said. “These guidelines will ensure that protection of vulnerable customers remains a key priority.”

She said anyone experiencing financial abuse should talk to their bank. The guidelines were last updated for financial abuse in 2014.

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