Australian Banks asked for customers’ addresses, telephone numbers and transactional history

This month there has been a lot of debate about access to customers’ private information. There was Westpac assisting the Police with their investigation into Nicky Hager and yesterday we looked at Xero handing over a report showing the credits and debits of each account connected to a customer’s subscription in response to a request by the Official Assignee.

In Australia banks when requested have been handing over customer details to the equivalent of our GCSB.The past financial year, there was a 300 per cent increase in reports to the national financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, of suspicious terrorism related transactions. AUSTRAC can ask banks for customers’ addresses, telephone numbers and transactional history but not locations and IP addresses from mobile phones or computers where transactions were made.

Australian jihadists are increasingly taking out small bank loans with no intention of paying them back and maxing out credit cards or overdraft limits immediately before travelling to Syria and Iraq, Westpac’s former chief financial crime officer says.

…Ms Beesley, who will address a University of Sydney forum on crime trends on Thursday, said discussions were under way to legislate for banks to be forced to hand over IP addresses of customers to help counter-terrorism investigations, similar to the way telcos have been legislated to provide metadata.

“Data and more importantly, that related to financial intelligence, is simply becoming the weapon of choice for law enforcement,” Ms Beesley said.

Ms Beesley said individual transactions are becoming smaller, sometimes tiny amounts elicited via social media and sent to foreign fighters for food, clothing or travel.
“If somebody wants to buy a flight ticket that is defined as terrorism funding but it’s really hard for a bank to detect that and virtually impossible without additional intelligence,” she said.
Collaboration with intelligence agencies is growing and banks are increasingly providing “some of the jigsaw pieces”, she said.

…In its annual report released this week, AUSTRAC attributed the 300 per cent spike in suspicious transactions ? up to 367 in the past financial year ? to the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, coupled with better vigilance from financial institutions.

…In addition to small loans and maxing out credit cards, banks are also grappling with an increasing number of customers who open bank accounts and provide the debit or credit card to a member of a terrorist group to allow them to make withdrawals from overseas ATMs, the task force’s report said.
Australia’s major banks stopped servicing remitters in recent months due to the risk of terrorism funding. Bisotel Rieh, a remittance provider run by notorious terrorist Khaled Sharrouf’s sister, who has publicly criticised her brother, was shut down by AUSTRAC last year.
Banking insiders say the cost of regulation has exploded into the hundreds of millions, as entire teams are hired to trawl for terror-related transactions.
The Australian Bankers Association said banks take their obligations to report suspicious transactions “very seriously”.