Australian banks have revamped their guidelines to help bank staff identify signs of financial abuse against family members and the elderly.
The Australian Banking Association says the update is part of an industry-wide goal on preventing family violence and elder abuse.
“This type of behavior is a form of domestic violence,” said Anna Bligh, executive director of ABA. “It can be a way for partners to keep women trapped in abusive and often dangerous relationships.
“It is also used against the elderly. Elder abuse can take many forms. “
Elder abuse can include spending money without authorization, forging signatures, getting older people to sign documents, and using bank accounts or credit cards without consent. It can also be loans that are never repaid or forcing a person to be a guarantor of a loan.
The association warns of increasing financial abuse 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 appropriate authorities.
Staff will also be trained to recommend more secure account settings and help victims of domestic violence open new accounts.
The revised guidelines reflect the role of digital banking in financial abuse, with the ABA warning of new risks such as using a message in a digital transaction description to threaten or intimidate someone.
“Bank staff are well trained to detect red flags and respond to cases of financial abuse,” Ms. Bligh said. “These guidelines will ensure that the protection of vulnerable clients remains a top priority.”
She said anyone who is financially abused should speak to their bank. The guidelines were last updated for financial abuse in 2014.