Exclusive: Australia’s BNPL boom pushes identity theft to record, data shows

FILE PHOTO: A logo for the companies Afterpay and Zip is seen in a store window in Sydney
FILE Photograph: A logo for the companies Afterpay and Zip is witnessed in a retail outlet window in Sydney, Australia, July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Stephen Coates

February 9, 2021

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Id theft complaints in Australia involving invest in-now-fork out-later finance doubled to a document previous calendar year, details observed by Reuters showed, increasing calls for authorities to rein in the booming industry.

Australia is a world pioneer in invest in-now-spend-later on (BNPL) retail financing and property to many major providers, which include Afterpay Ltd, which have loved scorching expansion in transactions, elevated valuations and free regulation.

A sharp spike in fraud complaints, having said that, has lifted thoughts about the tender oversight, which some analysts see as a critical sector hazard amid growing advocate calls for increased purchaser protections in the $4.3 billion market.

IDCare, a not-for-profit customer aid organisation, knowledgeable a file 1,600 incident reports similar to BNPL merchandise in Australia very last calendar year, double the year in advance of, facts it well prepared for Reuters confirmed.

Though credit history card fraud grievances have been 4 times that sum, the rate of improve in BNPL fraud represents an outsize demonstrating for the startup funding alternative.

“What it genuinely demonstrates you is how immediately the criminals adapt to the sector for fraud and abuse the technique,” reported Moises Sanabria, performing taking care of director of IDCare.

IDCare is funded by many general public and non-public sector establishments and acts as the key support support for id theft victims in Australia.


BNPL corporations lend purchasers immediate money, normally up to a couple thousand bucks, which can be paid out off in curiosity absolutely free installments.

As they usually make revenue off merchant commissions and late service fees, not curiosity payments, they sidestep the legal definition of credit rating – and credit history legal guidelines.

That means BNPL providers are not expected to run qualifications checks on new accounts, contrary to credit card businesses, and ordinarily ask for just an applicant’s identify, handle and start date, creating it an quick fraud goal.

The BNPL service provider named in the most issues in the past 3 several years was Zip Co Ltd, mentioned in 32.9% of client engagements, the IDCare data showed.

Afterpay Ltd, Australia’s 12th-biggest firm right after a 16-fold share rate surge in a calendar year, rated 3rd out of 17 and was named in 15.9% of BNPL complaints.

The information did not consist of information these kinds of as how many problems resulted in the law enforcement or regulators getting identified as. It also did not contain grievances built to companies other than IDCare.

Partly fuelling stellar development in BNPL in 2020 had been pandemic-related stimulus payments and tougher credit checks by traditional lenders.

But issues grew in tandem, peaking in the a few months to June 2020, suitable just after Australia unleashed billions of bucks of pandemic aid payments, in accordance to IDCare.

A Zip spokesman explained the company had carried out “ID and credit rating checks on every applicant because working day one” to halt identity theft.

He said “complaints to IDCare have grown due to the fact Zip has developed,” adding its Australian prospects had expanded five-fold to 2.5 million in 2020.

An Afterpay agent claimed the business takes ID theft extremely significantly and makes use of resources these types of as second-component authentication and account constraints when strange action is detected.

But Sharon Vermeer, a professional medical secretary from Perth, told how a spouse and children acquaintance opened an Afterpay account in her name in 2019 then applied it to bankroll a A$2,100 ($1,618) browsing spree which she only discovered when a assortment agency notified her of a skipped payment.

“It’s so quick to open up an account in an individual else’s name… Until you default, you will never know,” she stated, including she desired to file police charges versus the acquaintance to crystal clear the default from her credit history heritage.

Afterpay did not answer to a question on Vermeer’s situation.


Australia’s BNPL increase has sparked a rush of listings and pushed inventory valuations to large earnings multiples.

Overhanging that advancement, having said that, is the spectre of tighter regulation.

When policymakers have so considerably held back again on tighter regulation, mounting worries about negative credit rating and now fraud could bolster arguments for firmer protections.

Very last 7 days, the British govt claimed it would drive BNPL vendors to run credit score checks to minimize unserviceable personal debt.

“Applying credit history legal guidelines to BNPL, like the British isles has lately accomplished, would involve these companies to make certain their processes successfully prevented against fraud,” stated Gerard Brody, CEO of Australia’s Purchaser Action Regulation Centre.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) declined to comment on the IDCare knowledge.

Andrew Bragg, a senator chairing a parliamentary inquiry on financial technological know-how, advised Reuters policymakers essential to equilibrium client safety versus the want for innovation.

“We want to see additional choice, a lot more competitors, and get-now-pay-later on has been a good innovation and we’ve presented ASIC substantial regulatory resources to secure shoppers,” explained Bragg, who is because of to produce the inquiry’s final report in April.

($1 = 1.2980 Australian bucks)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye Editing by Miyoung Kim and Sam Holmes)