ANZ moves to block mule accounts


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ANZ scopes out money mules,  two in three Aussies change holiday plans - save $400 monthly, and mortgage brokers come to the rescue of embattled homeowners. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

ANZ to block mule accounts

ANZ is dialling up the battle against scams, with a new security capability designed to detect mule accounts.

anz to block money mules

Money mules are people recruited by criminals to transfer illegally obtained money - often funds gained from scams.

Typically, a mule is offered payment to receive funds from a crook into their own bank account, and then transfer the loot to another financial institution.

In simple terms, it's money laundering though the mule may not be aware of this.

Following a pilot in April 2023, ANZ's mule detection technology identified nearly 1400 high-risk accounts.

ANZ head of customer protection, Shaq Johnson says, "Stopping mule accounts is a critical component of scam prevention."

While ANZ isn't revealing how the technology identifies a mule account, Johnson says customers can protect themselves "by remaining alert to unsolicited contact and requests to move funds."

In late July, the Australian Federal Police charged a Melbourne man for allegedly laundering more than $176,000 stolen from Australian businesses targeted by cyber crims.

The arrest was the result of a tip-off from an Aussie bank that noticed unusual transactions in the man's account. Money laundering can result in a 10-year jail sentence.

Aussies are ditching holidays to save

Aussies may be known for their love of travel, but a cost of living crunch is seeing many of us rethink vacation plans.

A NAB survey found two in three people have either cancelled or postponed their holiday, while four in 10 have scaled back their plans.

NAB retail customer executive, Tara Hartley, says, "While you might have some FOMO from travel pics, it might be reassuring to know you're not the only one making sensible spending decisions, with data showing two-thirds of Australians have made changes to their plans due to rising costs."

It turns out that swapping a trip to the Costa del Sol for a short stay at the Costa-Notta-Lotta can deliver valuable savings.

NAB says that by making changes to holiday plans, Australians are pocketing average savings of about $400 each month.

Mortgage brokers help embattled homeowners

If you're struggling with home loan repayments, you don't have to go it alone.

The Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) found 95% of mortgage brokers report seeing homeowners come to them for the first time for help with an existing mortgage.

MFAA CEO Anja Pannek believes this is an indicator of growing mortgage stress.

She adds, "The silver lining is that 88% of brokers report they have helped negotiate a discount with their customers' current lenders, while 81% have helped refinance a customer with a new lender."

Negotiating a better deal, debt restructuring or extending the terms of a loan are all part of the service mortgage brokers offer - and it should cost consumers nothing as brokers are paid a commission by lenders.

Pannek is encouraging home owners to see a broker rather than struggle on their own. "Australian homeowners are leaving money on the table if they're not seeking professional help," she adds.

Are we letting our smiles decay away?

It's Dental Health Week - an event possibly overlooked by the one in two Australians who haven't visited a dentist in over a year.

Maybe we're shunning the surgery out of fear (dentophobia).

Or it could be we're concerned about the prospect of a cavity in our hip pocket.

Research from Compare the Market (CTM)  shows the average Australian wore an out-of-pocket cost of $271.68 from their last dental visit.

On the plus side, the Australian Dental Association says just six minutes a day brushing and flossing helps keep our pearly whites shining.

Taking out extras cover can help with dental bills.

Premiums start at around $13.95 per month for a single, or $29 monthly for a family. A two month waiting period normally applies.

Compare the Market's Lana Hambilton, says, "Depending on your health fund and level of extras cover, you may be entitled to have your teeth cleaned with no out-of-pocket costs by visiting an eligible dentist."

Free public dental services are available if you have a Health Care Card or Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card but it can take up to a year to find yourself in the chair.

CommBank enlists law enforcement to stamp out financial abuse

The Commonwealth Bank is launching a police referral pilot in NSW to help tackle financial abuse.

The pilot will kick off by mid-September, providing a way for the bank's NSW customers to report financial abuse quickly and easily.

CommBank has been monitoring abusive transactions since mid-2020.

Close to 400,000 transactions have been blocked each year by an automatic filter that prevents offensive language being used in transaction descriptions.

In the new pilot scheme, if CommBank detects a NSW customer receiving repeated abuse in transaction descriptions, the bank will contact the receiving customer to ask if they would like the abuse reported to the police on their behalf.

Angela Macmillan, CommBank's customer advocate, says, "The launch of this new pilot with NSW Police will help provide better support for customers experiencing abuse."

Financial abuse is a form of domestic and family violence that can include one person in a relationship controlling all the money.

For help, contact the National Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.