Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Treasury Department OFAC list catching, "blacklisting" misidentified consumers

Ellen Nakashima has a story in the Washington Post that mixed consumer identity protection with “reputation defense.” It is “A Good Name Dragged Down: Consumers Get Tangled in Terrorist Watchlist,” link here. The story is on page D1, Business, of today’s Washington Post (Wed. March 19). The story also has an illustration: a nametag with the words "Hello, my name is Mud".

The story refers to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Companies are not allowed to do business with individuals on the list. But unfortunately they often miss identify consumers, especially those with Muslim-sounding names. One person was asked to undress and show that he did no have a particular tattoo when he tried to buy a car.

The OFAC runs a list of “specially designated nationals.” Banks, apartments, car dealers, etc. can not legally process transactions with persons on the list, who are effectively "blacklisted" by the Treasury Department. But OFAC has not provided a convincing procedure to handle misidentification. Persons have been told to contact credit reporting agencies, but this would not have anything to do with the list. The OFAC list does not seem to be well-coordinated with other lists.

Obviously persons really on the list might have an incentive to steal identities of similarly named people, and an NCOA-check such as what I’ve proposed on these pages might help prevent mishaps.

On March 18 Nakashima had a similar story “Reports Cite Lack of Uniform Policy for Terrorist Watch List, p A02, link here.

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