CBA cracks down on 'threatening' online banking trend


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A disturbing new trend in which abusers harass their victims through online banking could have long-term consequences, according to a women's advocate against domestic and financial abuse.

Commonwealth Bank (CBA) was the first Australian bank to speak out against the trend, after they noticed customers using online banking to transfer small amounts of money to victims with abusive messages in the transaction description.

Advocate Marion May said the practice is a cunning way to traumatise a victim and link that trauma to money, which has long-term consequences.

netbank abuse online banking

"Women at best as we know are not always inclined to engage in their finances with money and when you link abuse to the experience of checking your bank statement, you embed that trauma - which then becomes a trigger for the victim," she says.

"The other thing it does is send a very clear message from perpetrator to victim: 'I can and will access you in every area of your life'."

CBA's general manager of community and customer vulnerability Catherine Fitzpatrick says she was horrified by the scale and nature of the disturbing messages.

"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.

"All genders were sending and receiving these messages but the nature ranged from fairly innocuous 'jokes' using profanities to serious threats and clear references to domestic and family violence."

CBA has cracked down on the trend, updating their policies so that any customer found to be using NetBank or the CommBank app to engage in threatening conduct can have their transactions refused or access to digital banking suspended.

"The message is simple: we can see you and we won't tolerate the use of our digital banking platforms to facilitate abuse."

Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh says this highlights the lengths to which abusers will go.

"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," Bligh says.

In Australia, around one in four women and one in 13 men have experienced violence by an intimate partner and of those who seek support, up to 90% are also affected by financial abuse.


If you are a CBA customer who has been the victim of online abuse, visit or call 1800 222 387.

To access support in the case of domestic or family violence visit

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.