Society & Lifestyle

Starling Bank Enables ‘Hide References’ to Aid Economic Abuse Victims

Starling Bank launched an unprecedented feature that enables abuse victims to switch off intimidating and offensive payment references that can accompany bank transfers

Starling Bank Enables ‘Hide References’ to Aid Economic Abuse Victims

Starling Bank has launched the ‘Hide references’ feature that allows customers to hide payment references. The option was specifically designed to help victims of economic abuse by muting unwelcome or abusive references that can accompany bank transfers. The feature is currently available to Starling’s personal GBP current account holders.

The UK-based bank has partnered with the charity organization Surviving Economic Abuse to help victims of an often ignored type of abuse.

Economic abuse can involve an aggressor partner withholding or taking away their family member’s or partners’ wages, hindering them from working or intentionally putting them in debt. Even when a person is physically separated from the abuser, the vengeful partner may send the victim money transfers with abusive payment references.

Those messages full of hate speech or manipulations are often a key obstacle for economic abuse survivors to overcome. However, the banking institutions don’t necessarily recognize them as abusive ones as people may use neutral words with hidden meanings obvious only to the victims themselves. At the same time, often ex-partners, blocked from other forms of contact, may send multiple obnoxious messages a day to accompany payments as small as one penny.

“Economic abuse can continue, increase, or even start long after a victim-survivor has separated from an abuser. Using online bank payment references to send intimidating or malicious messages is just one of the ways an abuser can maintain control from afar, leaving victims feeling helpless and highly vulnerable. This small in-app feature will make a huge difference to survivors’ ability to bank safely,” explains Lauren Garrett, financial services manager at Surviving Economic Abuse.

The new Starling feature claims to be the first of its kind in the UK for Faster Payments. It enables customers to tap on a payment that’s received with an unwanted reference message and hide all references from either past or future payments made from that account.

Nevertheless, tapping the ‘Hide’ icon won’t prevent the money from being transferred to a customer’s Starling Bank account, as verbal abuse often comes with payments intended to support the ex-partner’s children etc. Therefore, the recipient will simply not see any payment references that come from the sending account while still getting the money. Customers can toggle between hide/unhide options in the app at any time.

Nina Bobro

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Nina is passionate about financial technologies and environmental issues, reporting on the industry news and the most exciting projects that build their offerings around the intersection of fintech and sustainability.