High Interest Savings Accounts, Online Banking with Limited English

I have been hearing a lot of stories about people getting their online accounts blocked recently.

I know my mum uses google translate when banking, but she would have a hard time speaking on the phone to get her account unlocked.

Does anyone know what the process would be to get an account unlocked where someone doesn't speak English. I work as a legal secretary, so my first thoughts would be to ask my boss to help and intervene, but it seems like something like that could risk one's job. In addition, it seems like there is no breach of any terms and conditions of usage. In fact it is suspiciously encouraged on many bank's websites, including the commonwealth bank.


Now, we could go into the legal grey area and ask someone to pose as the person and get it unlocked, since you have all the details provided by the real client, but I want to know if there is actually a proper method to do it the right way.


  • Why is her account locked in the first place? Why can't you help her?
    CBA provides free interpreter but I wouldn't want to give my details to them either. Pretty sure they've figured out this security issue but I have no idea.

    • Thankfully, it isn't at the moment. I'm just thinking ahead because I saw something on some forums and a recent conversation on discord.

      I don't think they can do anything. It's not like you can stop someone putting their phone up and taking a picture to translate. I use it myself to buy stuff on taobao, albeit I understand a bit of Chinese so if I get blocked I have to call their phone number…

  • Depending on the language, I know some branches do have some staff able to speak that languages like mandarin.

    • Quite a lot of branches actually. Pretty sure you cand find which ones on their website or live chat.

  • +1 vote

    Can your mum speak some basic English eg, if asked, can she answer, when asked for her name, dob, address, phone (basically to ID her) and some basic yes no responses? If so, you should be able to call the bank on her behalf but have her on the other line, so the operator can verify if she is legit and you are on the call to help her.

    Otherwise for the future, request for the bank to authoritise you to see if you could deal with some matters for her, otherwise power of attorney (probably an overkill).

  • Commbank allows friends, family member or support worker to act as interpreter, but I think your mum herself has to be present at the same time with some sort of photo ID for verification at the bank.

    • I was thinking more about those banks that don't have a branch. I hope I never have to deal with it.

      • My mother, after introducing herself, passed the phone to me to talk to a Citibank customer service person about some online banking complexity. This person became convinced something was suspicious - beats me in what way - Mum had all her ID docs with her so we could answer any questions. She would not let us speak to a higher authority. In the end poor old Mum had to travel 500km on the train and back to get to a branch, withdraw all the funds and close the freaking account..

  • Have you actually tried calling her bank and asking them rather than your first instinct and going down the legal route?

  • Been doing this since I was 10 .

    Just ask to be put on the list as an authority alongside account holder.

    Works for most utilities and accounts.

    Failing this as others have suggested just teach your mom how to say name.dob.phone no.

    And then speak on their behalf.

    Pretty sure commbank have unlock function on their website.

    Depending on what services you use. May also be worth scouting out your local branches to see if they offer that languages support. Ie. My parents bank near sunnybank ( basically whole suburb speaks asian)

    Otherwise services such as Telstra have certain languages for help desk. They will remember your account upon calling them.

    • This. Just call on your mother's behalf, but be honest. The rep will still need to ask your mother some info to confirm ID, and ask for permission to give you authority.

  • I think everyone else has given you plenty of great advice on approaching this 'properly' but as a child of immigrant parents, I grew up my entire life pretending to be my parents on the phone.

    You know all the security answers, you do most of the banking/bill paying/government admin on their behalf anyway that it shouldn't really matter. Obviously, if you're a male and you're speaking on behalf of your mother it is a bit more difficult but I've done it no problem. Try to lighten the voice a little, put on a bit of an accent/speak on speakerphone and tell them you have a cold hence why your voice is a bit deeper.

    I've heard too many horror stories of waiting for a translator and the son/daughter ends up translating to the parent who tells the translator who tells the call centre agent. A 10 minute call ends up taking an hour.

  • I was overly paranoid, nothing happened.

    I've successfully transferred out $150k and it didn't flag anything.

  • Plot twist - elderly woman been scammed/robbed of 150k