Commonwealth Bank says there is not enough information about how to combat the hidden epidemic of financial abuse plaguing Australia.
A new report commissioned by the major bank and the University of New South Wales has revealed financial institutions have a systemic problem of not being able to easily identify or define cases of financial or economic abuse within banking systems.
CBA executive Sian Lewis said banks have traditionally identified financial and economic abuse patterns as acts of control, exploitation and financial sabotage. However, the latest research identified two new categories which are manipulation and entanglement.
“Financial abuse is a hidden epidemic affecting thousands of Australians who are experiencing domestic and family violence,” Ms Lewis said.
“Yet, there is limited academic evidence on the issue, making it difficult to develop and deliver effective support for people impacted.”
Financial and economic abuse are usually linked to domestic and family violence, and disproportionately affect more women than men.
UNSW professor Jan Breckenridge said early warning signs may include a build up in the amount of debt on credit cards or the unexplained loss of money in savings accounts.
“It’s important to learn the signs of financial abuse, where to go for help, and how to support a family member or friend who may be at risk,” she said.
“Perpetrators may also have ready access to their partner’s work product which they can damage or manipulate to undermine their partner’s employment.”
In July, CBA launched its Next Chapter assistance program to support people who are experiencing financial and economic abuse.
“It’s a complex issue and unfortunately there’s not one easy answer for how we tackle this,” Ms Lewis said.
“We updated our acceptable use policy so that any customer found to be using NetBank or the CommBank app to engage in unlawful, defamatory, harassing or threatening conduct, promoting or encouraging physical or mental harm or violence against any person may have their transactions refused or access to digital banking services suspended or discontinued.”
CBA said the findings from the report will be publicly available to other financial institutions.
Someone experiencing domestic or family violence can call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for counselling and support.