Banking code updated to fight elder abuse

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

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

“This kind of behaviour is a form of domestic violence,” ABA chief executive Anna Bligh said in a statement on Sunday.

“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 – coercing someone to sign, forging signatures, withholding access to money.”

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

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

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

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

“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 family and domestic violence in 2016 and financial abuse in 2014, the ABA said.