An outspoken banking critic claims Westpac froze his accounts when he tried to withdraw $2,000 and didn’t authorize the transaction until he told them what the money was for.
Author Crispin Rovere said it was only by showing the branch manager the publicity generated by his previous encounter with Westpac that he was allowed access to his money.
“She was visibly panicked then,” Mr Rovere told Daily Mail Australia.
However, he said he still had to wait 45 minutes before the manager came out and said the accounts were not frozen.
“There is no conceivable explanation for this continued intrusion other than to seek to punish me for using money,” Mr Rovere said.
Just over a year ago, Westpac froze its accounts when it attempted to make a substantial cash deposit that was significantly below the $10,000 threshold that banks must report to the federal government.
Mr Rovere said Westpac’s ‘anti-fraud team’ was the stumbling block on both occasions and acted with disdain when he challenged them over their right to stop him using his funds as he wanted it.
“The cashier was in communication with Westpac’s fraud team to get an explanation,” Mr Rovere said of the most recent refused funds.
“The anti-fraud team demanded to know what the money was used for.
“When I said it was none of their business, the fraud team simply replied ‘if you are unwilling to disclose why you want the money, we will not unblock your accounts . Thank you for contacting us, goodbye”.
Mr Rovere said the Westpac branch manager only backed down when he showed him the publicity his previous run-in with the bank had attracted.
It was then that Mr. Rovere had to call the manager.
“I have since filed another internal complaint regarding this incident, but have yet to receive a response from Westpac,” Mr Rovere said.
“Last time Westpac said it was because the deposit was made from a state other than where it was opened.
“However, this time the freeze occurred while I was physically at a branch in the same state the account was opened.”
Mr Rovere accused the bank of not being truthful when it issued him a statement about the block which read ‘we have detected unusual online activity on your account’.
“The Westpacs are real liars,” he said.
“There was no ‘online activity’ – I was literally standing in the branch in person.”
Mr. Rovere promotes a petition in the federal Parliament which declares that “access to banking services is a human right.
“Banks should not be allowed to deny financial services to customers unless explicitly required by law,” the petition reads.
Prue MacSween said she was outraged at bank staff questioning her 100-year-old mother about why she wanted to withdraw money from her account.
Westpac said that “due to confidentiality obligations, we are unable to comment on individual customer questions.”
“In response to the high number of scams and instances of fraud, we are applying extra attention to ensure the safety and security of customers,” a spokesperson said.
“This may include temporarily blocking an account when unusual activity is observed so that relevant checks can be made.”
TV personality Prue MacSween told Daily Mail Australia last week that she had a similar experience where her 100-year-old mother was denied a substantial withdrawal unless she could respond to questions about what she would do with the money.
‘It’s none of their fucking business what she wants to do with it!’ MacSween said.
“It’s the Spanish Inquisition if you want to go in and get a few thousand dollars out you need a letter from your goddamn mother telling you why you should be allowed to have the money.
‘It’s just disgusting. It’s your money and they use it to make these huge profits and you have to justify what you’re spending your money on.
“I’m offended, we’re all being treated like we’re money launderers for just wanting to withdraw money.”
As further evidence of the control banks have over their customers’ money last week, Daily Mail Australia reported that Commonwealth Bank would prevent customers from transferring more than $10,000 to crypto exchanges and related websites.
An ABC spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the decision was intended to protect customers from the risk of scams by reducing the amount of money customers lose.
The spokesperson said the bank was trying to strike a balance between customer safety and minimizing inconvenience.
Other banks used the same justification to impose similar blocks on certain sites, albeit without general transfer limits, which enraged the Australian crypto community.
Digital currency enthusiasts have accused banks of being “afraid” of a competitor threatening to take over the traditional financial sector.
‘How does this actually help stop crypto scams? General rules do not help anyone. It’s shameful,’ crypto trader Ben Simpson posted online.
Daily Mail Australia also reported in June that Commonwealth Bank reserves the right to stop transactions ‘which we believe are ‘offensive, harassing or threatening to any person’ or ‘promote or encourage physical or mental harm of any person”.
A bank spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the terms were to prevent ‘addressing the issue of financial abuse in the context of domestic and family violence’.