Financial crime guides

Australian government agencies often release guides to help industries combat specific types of crime. It’s not always apparent whether these guides are being used and if they result in significant real-world outcomes.

In November 2021, AUSTRAC released the Preventing misuse and criminal communication through payment text fields financial crime guide (“the guide”) to help businesses understand, identify and report technology-facilitated abuse through financial transaction payment text fields. AUSTRAC has outlined the real life implications of this guide.


About the guide

While financial transaction payment text fields can be a useful communication mechanism when transferring funds, they are increasingly being abused, and misused by criminals as a method of communication.

Payment text fields are being used by individuals and organised crime groups to communicate and facilitate serious offences. This includes stalking, harassing or threatening victims, or criminal communication to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.

The guide provides financial indicators to help financial service providers identify the misuse of payment text fields and understand when to report this issue to AUSTRAC. Key indicators of financial transactions being used for this type of criminal activity include high volume payments at a low value. Payments can be as low as $0.01 and are typically below $10.


Using the guide to protect the community

Between March-April 2022, a major bank followed the protocols outlined in the guide and reported two suspicious matters to AUSTRAC due to a customer using abusive language in the payment text fields.

Following receipt of the suspicious matter reports, AUSTRAC worked with law enforcement to identify the subject of the reports and discover that they already had an apprehended violence order (AVO) in place. AUSTRAC leveraged its financial intelligence and cooperated with the bank to locate and arrest the subject of the report for breaching the AVO.

While manual monitoring of payment text fields has led to this successful outcome, some financial service providers have taken things to the next level and have implemented measures to automatically identify and block abusive or offensive messages.

Such actions help to reduce the risk of misuse of payment text fields and help to protect vulnerable members of the community.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in all areas of criminal law. 

Contact us if you require assistance.