Can a Bank Teller Legally Ask Me Why I Want to Withdraw My Money?

Hi All

Had an odd experience yesterday and thought to ask what others might think.

So I went to the bank to withdraw $5,000. I figured out max I can do on ATM is $1-2k across the 2 banks I am with.

So I went into my nearest open branch in a rush during my lunch break. Did the usual social distancing and waiting in line etc until I got to the teller (current Vic conditions branches are either closed or short hours and no weekends). Then they insist on getting an answer as to why I want my money out.

The exchange went a bit like this:

Me: Hi, I'd like to withdraw $5,000
Teller: What do you need the cash for?
Me: (stunned by the question, so I ignored it) I want to withdraw cash
Teller: Yeah what do you need it for
Teller: Some people are being scammed and there are different ways scammers are trying to get money.
Me: Okay I'm not being scammed. I just want cash.
Teller: Okay but what do you need it for?
Me: I am paying for something, I am not being scammed.
Teller: Okay I'm just trying to protect you and your money. (Like that makes it okay??)
proceeds to withdraw cash from my account

Now I've not been in a branch in maybe 4-5 years. I do all my banking online these days and have met with a bank broker over the years (which I'd say doesnt count). Is this normal to be interrogated why I want to withdraw MY money and to be asked what I'm doing with it?

Is there not some privacy law against this?

In my view teller could have led with I have to ask you if you think you might be scammed or something similar at the start. And if I confirm no, what is it their business to press the question further for detail?

The bank is an instrument where I store my money. Should that not be as far as it needs to go? They suspect something they can file it with the ATO or whoever else manages suspicions of fraud etc.

Didn't feel right. This was Commonwealth Bank btw.

EDIT: Thanks all for your comments. So this looks like a common occurrence now, and has legal backing under duty of care. All I wanted to confirm really. Cheers.

closed Comments

    • Showdown at the OK Corral.

    • Hahaha gold!

  • +1

    Most of the time they will ask you for the purposes of trying to upsell you something. Ie. If you say you are buying a car they will offer car insurance. If you say you are leaving the bank they may try to retain you.

    It's part of their training. I wouldn't take it personally. I've been a mystery shopper and done such assessments.

  • +3

    My partner is a teller at a bank. And last week she asked someone the question why they were withdrawing a tonne of money.

    Turns out the scammer was listening in via the phone in the ladys purse.

    This occurrence happens daily across branches all over the country. And I bet majority of the scams are not stopped.

    Also being in a rush, being defensive and also a little bit paranoid could give a greater reason for them to be concerned. They are just looking out for your best interest. And these basic questions stop a lot of people getting into serious trouble.

    • Turns out the scammer was listening in via the phone in the ladys purse.

      She left a call going to withdraw money?

      • "Turns out the scammer was listening in via the phone in the ladys purse" - Thanks for the "heads up", this is a wake up call to all of us with vulnerable friends or family.

        • +1

          Yeah, so the lady had the scammer still on the phone in her purse. Not sure what the person was saying on the phone. But the scammer convinced her enough to get her to drive to the branch and transfer money.

          But luckily the staff at the branch caught on and prevented it. And this kind of stuff happens every day. The older population is very vulnerable.

    • How about the reverse if someone was depositing? Saw this story about the 84 year old who was on his way to deposit cash in a scammers account, just so happened to get pulled over on his way there and during the conversation they determined he was the victim of a scam.

      Had he not done that illegal turn and made it to the bank, I wonder if they would have questioned why he was depositing the said thousands.

  • Tell 'em "Whores".

  • In my experience it has always been a standard question when withdrawing a moderate amount of cash.

    Over the last 2 1/2 decades that I can recall, I've always been asked, It is not something new.

  • +3

    I've seen your type around, next minute you'll be complaining that customer service isn't what it used to be in the good ol days. I would bet money on the teller being female too.

    • +1

      Amazing prediction when OP said : In my view she could have led with .

      • thanks for confirming my suspicions… I don't know if OP is a middle aged male either but I'll assume that too.

        • and i will 'suspect' that the teller was having 'female issues' using your logic…

      • Ha!

  • Did you tell them you were in Richmond with your friends yesterday?

  • I work at a place that sells gift cards and its a similar situation…. although, the approach I take is different and feel it should be adopted. When ever i sell gift cards ($500+) I just say 'Just want to advise you that there is quite alot of scams going around and have to make sure that this purchase is for personal reasons such as a gift'…. I think a sentence like this is much more respectful then what do you want these giftcards for….

    I too dont like being asked at the bank why I need my own money, and I have politely said for personal reasons and left it at that

  • "Apparently hookers don't take credit cards"

  • +2

    Why did you make it weird by ignoring them?

  • Because there are too many SCAM at the moment, and still Many people got scammed.

  • -1

    Why would someone who knows they are being scammed withdraw the cash?

    • +1

      Do you think a person who knows they are being scammed will pay em off ?

      I really give up with some Einteins on this platform .

      • This is my point exactly, someone who knows it's a scam isn't going to the bank, so there's no point in asking 'is that withdrawal for a scam?'

        If the teller asks what it's for, its possible that a teller may identify a scam based on what that person claims they are going to buy (e.g. 'Apple gift cards so the technician can fix my computer')

  • Here's a real life example of an elderly person almost being scammed a few weeks ago in Adelaide.
    Police traffic stop saves elderly driver from scammer claiming to be from major bank https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-07/sa-police-traffic-sto...

  • It's legally not your money, it's a loan to the bank. A loan which the bank probably doesn't even want, because they can get nearly free money from government.

    And banks are now surveillance agents for government; your disobedience has likely caused the generation of a suspicious activity report.

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

    Crypto gives you control of your own money, but government/banks say it's a scam.

    • if crypto is a scam, government are taxing scammers now

      the real scam is fiat & inflation

  • bitcoin fixes this

  • inflation is real and the banks are scared

  • I get asked this all the time, anything with more than 2 zeros and they start to sweat for some reason. i just tell them the money is for various illegal activities. they hand it over with a glazed look in their eyes.

  • Just tell them you are buying a couple of new iPhones.

  • It is pretty unusual to withdraw that amount of cash these days. They are just doing their job by asking.

  • Since when bank clerks have also been part time detectives?

    Just say "none of your business."

    The level of overreach over personal freedoms in Australia are getting more and more extreme.

    • +1

      my point exactly, if they have some 'probable cause' then how far does this 'investigation' go or not go?

  • I recently withdrew nearly $400k, they asked me quite a few questions before doing so.
    And that was just for a bank cheque (needed it for a property settlement, and funds had only just been deposited from another property days earlier- I don't normally have that type of cash :)).

    It's a safety measure.
    If you're really worried about privacy, just say you're buying a car and move on… but I think it's good that they at least ask you to make sure you aren't being swindled by "a lover stuck overseas who really needs some cash to help get them over here". At the time I was a little taken aback by the questions, but afterwards I completely understood. It IS a little confronting when a stranger is asking you why you are spending your own money, but it's just good customer service. 30 seconds to ask a few questions/circumstances to ensure someone isn't blowing their life savings is worth it.

    Then again…. for a laugh, tell them with a straight face that you are buying a life-like girlfriend from Japan who comes with real human hair and an advanced genital region with multiple settings and quick clean function :). I wish I had thought thought of it prior (and had the guts to do it) :).

  • Thread closed by OP's request.