Banking email treating Aussies ‘like criminals’

A string of irate customers have come forward to claim they were treated like criminals by their own bank with no explanation given.

When Katie* opened an email from her bank several weeks ago, she expected it to be the usual boring news about home loans, new policies or credit card limits.

Instead, she was stunned to learn that her bank was abandoning her after more than a decade of loyal business – with no excuses.

Katie called ING immediately after receiving the email, initially thinking it had simply been sent accidentally, but was told there had been no error and that all five of her accounts would be closed in due to a violation of their banking policies.

She said the bank also failed to provide an explanation for the abrupt decision and as a result she was forced to spend four hours opening new accounts and updating all of her direct debit payments. .

“It was a huge inconvenience – huge,” she told, adding that ING made her “feel like a criminal”.

“I had five accounts with them, and it came out of nowhere. We’ve been with ING for over 10 years, so it was really hard to swallow, and I’m really annoyed.

Katie said she racked her brains trying to think of possible reasons why her bank dumped her, but was still puzzled – until a friend who worked in finance shared a potential theory.

“My friend has seen this before – it’s called debanking, when a bank closes accounts for no particular reason, and it’s very quiet – they won’t tell you why, not even frontline staff or managers, and it’s all-and-dagger, she said.

“It could be due to one of two things: either you committed a criminal act that is being investigated by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC), and it’s not me , or two, they did something wrong themselves with paperwork, and it’s easier for them to get rid of customers than potentially getting huge fines in the future for not following the good processes.

Katie now believes ING failed to provide her with the correct identification documents when she opened her accounts and was now scrambling to avoid a possible fine.

“How dare they make me feel like I’ve done something wrong?” It’s not fair that we are made to feel like criminals,” she said.

“I don’t launder money or do any criminal activity, but they made me feel like I did something untoward, and so they’re sorry, they don’t want me as a customer anymore.

“After leaving a one star review, I took a look and saw that this had happened to a lot of other people as well, so surely this needs to be investigated further if they do this willy-nilly? Seems like they got massively drunk and caught off guard.

“Appalling”: angry customers strike

Katie’s story comes days after high-profile Sydney sex worker Samantha X also shared a similar story with, revealing that she too had closed her accounts with no further explanation than if it was a “business decision”.

She said the bank’s lack of transparency and the fact that she had always been a good customer led her to fear she would be discriminated against because of her sex work.

“If it’s about discrimination, ING needs to realize that it’s 2022,” she said.

Unfortunately, Katie and Samantha X’s experiences with the bank are all too familiar to Chris, a long-time Australian ING client who currently lives and works overseas and who was also dumped unceremoniously by the company.” out of the blue” last month.

After receiving an email asking him to urgently contact the lender regarding his account, Chris, who requested that his last name be withheld, was informed that as he had an address at foreigner registered with them, he could no longer carry out banking transactions with them.

“I had an Australian address registered for mail, but for tax and regulatory reporting purposes I had registered my overseas address as a residential address,” he said.

“When I asked why I could no longer do business with them as an Australian citizen who lived and worked overseas they gave me a lame excuse saying they just wanted to provide banking services to Australians living in Australia.

“When I pressed them for a reasonable explanation, the person just read in a clear script that management had decided to only provide banking services to Australian residents in Australia.”

Chris, who has worked in banking for 35 years, told the situation was “bizarre”.

“Their lack of transparency and honesty is in my view appalling and unprofessional,” he said.

And Ian Morrison, who is currently based in Indonesia, is another Australian ING client who feels “insulted” by the wave of unbanking.

Mr Morrison, an ING customer for at least a decade, initially opened an account based on recommendations from the barefoot investor, and because ING refunded fees or trades from any ATMs all over the world, allowing him to travel while still managing his finances from Australia.

But he too received an email from ING shortly before Easter 2021 informing him that his account would be closed.

Mr Morrison, who has spent years traveling across Asia and sponsoring disadvantaged children to help them learn English, told he thinks ING may have “misinterpreted” his charity work, after reading that Australian banks were “seriously considering singles”. middle-aged white men who sent money outside Australia, particularly to Asia” following the Royal Banking Commission.

However, Mr Morrison also contacted ANZ, with whom he had dormant accounts, and was assured he had no ‘black mark’ against his name.

“Maybe the problem was that I was costing ING too much in reimbursed ATM fees, but why didn’t they contact me? I would have been happy to negotiate a solution that would work for both of us,” he said.

“Or am I automatically considered a pedophile just because my profile doesn’t look normal, whatever? If so, again, why didn’t anyone ask?

“Given that nothing else happened and that was their reasoning, I don’t think their decision is based on any real evidence.”

Mr Morrison said the “real problem” was how ING treated some of its long-term customers.

“ING has been granted a license to trade in Australia and within that license they are expected to operate within the law,” he said.

“Given that this is a foreign entity, I would have thought they would be expected to treat us with respect as well.

“What happened to a lot of us is far from respectful and it really pisses me off.”


Debanking, also known as unbanking, refers to the denial of banking services by banks or other financial institutions to customers.

In a submission to the Australian Parliament, Bitaroo, an Australian-only bitcoin exchange, said “banks have the ability to freeze accounts instantly, close them without notice, and even ban customers from using their services again.” , noting “no reason need be given and currently no regulator has the power to force banks to reveal the reasoning behind such decisions”.

Yannick Ieko, CEO of SMSF Loan Experts, told that “fortunately this is not common practice”, but said there were a range of reasons why an unbanking could occur. .

“Financial institutions work hard to ensure that their financial products are not used to support money laundering, terrorism and other illegal activities,” he explained.

“They do it for a variety of reasons, ie to comply with the law, to be good corporate citizens and to protect their own brand.

“They have sophisticated systems to assess risk and identify potential problems. Where the needle of risk rises, the need for institutions to act also rises. When this happens, you find that unbanking happens more often. »

But aside from those obvious reasons, Mr Ieko said there were “probably only a handful” of other explanations, such as customers “overly aggressive or acting inappropriately towards staff, charges on a customer’s account have not been paid or possibly a system error or failure”.

Speaking specifically about Samantha X’s experience, Mr Ieko said the case “appeared to be about the client’s profession”.

“We are helping a number of sex workers with their loan needs and I can absolutely confirm that there is covert discrimination against them in mortgages,” he said.

Despite being asked about the general reasons why ING may choose to close a customer’s account, an ING spokeswoman simply told that the bank was “unable to discuss this issue due to client confidentiality”.

*Name has been changed

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