back to article Creeps give away money to harass recipients with abusive transaction descriptions on bank statements

Creeps in Australia have given away money in order to harass people with abusive transaction descriptions that appear in online banking records. Australia’s Commonwealth Bank (CBA) revealed the practice today after finding over 8,000 customers had received such messages. “After noticing disturbing messages in the account of a …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Three months early

    That doesn't say anything good about the Australian government's attitude toward domestic violence, I can't imagine it doesn't exist in Oz and pretending it doesn't will not make it go away.

    Domestic violence is one of those crimes that is often under reported for a host of reasons, any government or police force that fails to stay up to date with it is seriously failing in their duty.

    1. Cereberus

      Re: Three months early

      Having lived in Oz for several years I feel I can give a qualified response (10 years since I was there) that there is a lot of abuse and domestic violence there. Around that time it was in the news a lot about the misogynistic attitude of male politicians.

      Part of the problem I witnessed was that they still had attitudes found in the UK in the 60's. The 'Sheila' at home bringing up the kids and doing the chores whilst the 'man of the house' earns the money, then drinks most of it.

      If politicians think that attitude is acceptable would it really be that surprising if the voters do?

      I don't know if it is still as bad - hopefully not - but I would like to know why the investigation ended early, only for a new one to be set up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Three months early

        Sorry but this is anecdotal tripe. Australian rates of domestic violence are in line with Europe’s and North America. If your going to spin a yarn about aussies being a bunch of wife beating red necks back it up with some stats.

        1. Cereberus

          Re: Three months early

          I take it AC you are anonymous for a reason so you can do a bit of trolling - answer the below points if you would be so kind:

          1) How is it anecdotal tripe? As I stated these are things I witnessed personally, not heard about specifically around the area of Hoppers Crossing

          2) Where did I state domestic violence was greater in Australia? Where did I compare it to Europe or N.America?

          3) Where did I make any comment about Aussies being wife beaters or red necks?

          That's right I didn't make any of the comments you ignorantly suggested I did. I also clearly stated this was the situation I witnessed 10 years ago, not how it is today.

          Please be careful you don't choke on your own tripe as it slithers back down your throat.

      2. Sampler

        Re: Three months early

        I've been here about eight years and I'd say they're actually a lot more open about it than back in the UK, there's some forthright programs to try and tackle the causes and get people to open up about the toxic masculinity and mental health problems that contribute to family violence.

        There's a lot of things that Australia is behind the UK on, but this and mental health support in general, they are far ahead.

  2. TonyJ Silver badge

    One solution...

    ...would appear to be for the banks to have some kind of facility to act as a proxy/escrow service. So there is an account number that isn't identifiable to the vulnerable customer and the bank then forwards payments in and out of that account but show a different set of details to other parties.

    I know there'd be issues to be worked out but I can't see any other way as, as we know with spam filters, there are ways to slip phrases past any automatic filter.

    Horrible the lengths some people go to to maintain their abuse of others.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: One solution...

      No need for that really. A report button would be enough. I mean a person with a bank account is highly identifiable - you cant open a bank without personal ID, addresses, etc. So the sender of the message is clearly identifiable to the bank. If something is reported, someone at the bank identifies if it breaks the law on harassment and then passes the details on to the police to sort out.

      If the senders try to get around this by using some sort of intermediary service. A bank threatening to no longer accept said intermediary service's transactions will very quickly see that service cleaning up its own house, and stopping the harassment at that point.

      This quite frankly should not be a problem the banks cant solve very quickly.

    2. cbars Silver badge

      Re: One solution...

      The whole point of these is so you can keep track of why the money is going in. If I'm paying my mate for some concert tickets, and petrol money, then he's passing some back as I got the beers in - its a lot easier to keep track of the meaning attached, than to maintain a seperate transaction tracker and then cross reference by amounts. Even if that transaction tracker is your head, the meaning of words is more useful than numbers in this case.

      Perhaps a mechanism in place to report (or even block) these from specific accounts, rather than annonomise, wold work? Then I can send my mate money for "Fridays beers" (or his "boob job"), but a victim can have redacted messages, keep the money, and have physical evidence for the plod to back up a tricky to prove crime

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: One solution...

        I'm not sure why it was such an unpopular suggestion. I'd like to understand why the downvoters did so. Note: I am not taking it personally etc but I am genuinely curious why people seem to believe protecting victims of abuse shouldn't have options for all available protections to be looked at...if I missed something, I'd really appreciate the thoughts on what etc.

        And... we're not talking about your mate down the pub, here, though. We're talking about a potentially very vulnerable person who has already been subject to abuse.

        Steps are already taken to protect people in these situations from other forms of abuse. This would add another layer onto those protections, and prevent them from ever even seeing the abuse.

        A report button is all well and good but it still means that the victim has to see the reference - that can be debilitating for them.

        Nor am I suggesting that this is something needed in every single case, but as an additional layer of protections

        1. Cereberus

          Re: One solution...

          The only reason I can see for down voting (which I didn't do as I agree with the underlying principle) is that the vulnerable person doesn't see the middle account. It is highly likely that the alleged abuser already has the persons real bank details.

          I would suggest you idea holds if the vulnerable person is given a new account which mirrors the existing account so any activity is matched on both saving the person having to update bank details with others unnecessarily as payments continue to go in and out the original account.

          The original account would then have a flag on it for any inappropriate references which could allow money to go through but block the sender details which are then referred to the police who would possibly have a case file that could be used to then chase the abuser down.

          2 problems - Would the bank want to take on the extra complexity and costs first of all as there isn't any real benefit to them beyond a customer service aspect (shouldn't be underrated)

          The second problem is the referral to the police where experience suggests it will fall flat on it's face.

          I have a friend who separated and then divorced her husband. He has then failed to pay any maintenance for their son but continues to drive around where she lives, sit in the car park where she works (out of town shop) hours before the store opens,send abuse from and his new partner etc. etc.

          The police have taken all the evidence promising action would be taken, including an arrest, warnings and possible court action for harassment then decided they couldn't do anything despite all the evidence and it would need to be a civil action. When another incident occurred the police comment was they didn't know how no action had been taken but couldn't find the ex-husband, then got an address and didn't take action. The cycle still continues.

          Child maintenance charge my friend for guaranteeing payment of child support, they have investigated the ex husband and worked out he owes over £5,000 back payments. In 2 years they recovered exactly zero but when he does make the odd small payment they take their cut for 'handling it'.

          If the authorities took proper action then the banks might review it and decide there is a basis for putting in protections as there would be action at the end of it, otherwise why spend the money / investment in systems when nothing else will be done to stop the alleged perpetrator continuing what they are doing?

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          lglethal gave you the reason you require.

        3. cbars Silver badge

          Re: One solution...

          An escrow service either removes a useful feature for everyone, or requires self identification of victims (and from your second comment it appears you expect this prior to harrassment?). Typically these people are reluctant to make a fuss, either because of fear or sheer timidity. I didn't down vote, but one final point, its hiding the problem not solving it

      2. 6491wm

        Re: One solution...

        Another solution would be to only allow notes to be added if the amount is over a certain value, say $5 (or whatever your local currency is).

        Might detract a few people otherwise it's going to start to get expensive to send a longer message ;o)

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: One solution...

      The solution is to charge the abusers with harassment or other applicable law.

      My ex-finance mate and a bunch of his juvenile colleagues delight in settling debts with such messages as:- You were worth it, Coke & hookers, For ya clap pills, Big tip 4a big boy, etc

      While it is undoubtedly silly, they're just having a laugh with it because its there.

      Tackling electronic/remote must begin with a strong look at social media reforms. Nobody weathering a twitter lynching could be in any doubt the platform does more harm than good; just ask Justine Sacco. One shit joke and your life is ruined.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hit the crims with an ASBO...

    Find the cockwombles that made the harrassing posts and slap them with an ASBO for stalking, harrassment, and any other charge you can make stick.

    Bet the fuckers won't do it again once the consequences of their lark comes back to bite them in the arse and donkey-kick them in the fork.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Hit the crims with an ASBO...

      ASBOs ceased to be in 2014, they were a stupid idea from Tony Blair as there were already and are still, plenty of mechanisms to deal with the behaviours that came within the scope of an ASBO.

      Besides, domestic violence and abuse should have specific laws and trained officers to deal with it, something I know is the case in some jurisdictions.

  4. adfh

    BPay Osko

    BPay Osko, an NPP based product, allows a lot longer descriptions than 18 chars.

  5. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Change your T&Cs

    Charge the sender $10 to $100 depending on the severity of the abuse and pay the money to the victim.

    That will stop it.

  6. batfink Silver badge

    How hard is it to trace the source?

    If this is going to be considered harassment, surely it's a relatively simple matter for Commbank to track back to the perps?

    If there have been >=8,000 of these messages turned up, it would be an interesting exercise to work out how many senders are at work here, and whether they're just carpet-bombing or actually targeting victims. Surely that's a trivial piece of analysis.

    The transferred sums must be small, otherwise the perps are spaffing substantial money just for the lulz/harassment. Does anyone know whether there's a minimum sum on transfers?

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: How hard is it to trace the source?

      I'm not sure - only one way to test: send me test transfers with naughty messages. Start with a few grand and reduce the amount a bit each time. I'll let you know when I stop receiving them.

      (I think you can send £0.01 in the UK if you really want).

    2. JCitizen Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Re: How hard is it to trace the source?

      Criminals use breach dumps like the ones from the Equifax breach to attempt to verify bogus PayPal accounts, that make micro payments to verify. If the bank or victim doesn't notice, then they take out more money until they are blocked. My bank tells me they cannot trace these to an individual at PayPal, so there is no way to magically trace to identify anyone that is generally doing such transfers, unless, perhaps, they are intrabank transfers by another account holder in the same institution.

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