Abusive messages through bank transfers becoming 'increasingly common' - family lawyer

Online banking. Most of us use it, but recent analysis conducted by BNZ shows that 10,000 people may have faced transaction abuse, and one family lawyer says abusers have added it to their arsenal. 

Many of us have left a goofy message in the reference field when paying back a friend, but now there's evidence perpetrators are using their victims' bank accounts to harm or intimidate them - especially when the victim has blocked their abuser from other kinds of contact. 

Shine senior family violence educator Mira Taitz told The Project some abusers will "take every opportunity to harass" if a relationship has ended, and one way is transactional abuse.

Transactional abuse is where abusers will use the reference field to send messages while sending money. 

BNZ general manager of customer assistance Martin King said one customer sent money to an ex-partner with messages like 'I love you' through to 'I hate you'.

"[They] actually sent $2.36 over a six-month period through 90 different messages."

King said when messages like this pop up, BNZ checks on the victim to ensure they're safe, and if they're not, then police are contacted.

Family lawyer Kesia Denhardt wrote a paper on transactional abuse for the New Zealand Law Society and told The Project it's becoming "increasingly common" in her practice.

"I'm hearing from my clients all the time now that perpetrators, their former partners, are being abusive by using the bank references."

Denhardt said on a number of occasions her client's former partners transferred required financial support funds to her client and took the opportunity to attach a message.

"To say things like, 'I miss you', or 'I love you', or 'I will see you soon'," she said.

"Which in the context of a family violence relationship are incredibly disconcerting and alarming for that person."

Denhardt added financial institutions need to ensure transactional abuse is discouraged. She would like to see systems put in place where banks can pick up concerning messages in order for them to be reported.

"So that it can be escalated and action can be taken," she said.

"Financial insulations need to listen to their customers as a part of their customer care."

Watch the full story and interview above. 

Where to find help and support: 

Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633

Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)

Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)

Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584