Friday, June 20, 2014

Banks have been denying some consumers accounts based on an obscure database (ChexSystems)

Banks have been refusing many individuals checking and savings accounts at all, as they check individuals on a little known database called ChexSystems (customer link).  On Friday, Washington Post reporter Danielle Douglas provided a shocking story on p. A18, Economy and Business, “Bank screening seen as too restrictive”, titled online “Why a guy making $100000 a year can’t get a bank account”, link.  Douglas has another story this week indicating that Capital One (in which I have a little stock) has announced it will not decline new accounts based on this Chex report as in the past.  Phyllis Furman of the New York Daily News also reports on this problem here and reports on Capital One’s action. 
Some banks like Wells Fargo offer “second chances” but place restrictions and require a savings account first.
I was not aware that individual consumers could be so severely penalized for bounced checks or other debt problems in just getting accounts.  I had heard about this issue in certain businesses, like legal marijuana.  I have only bounced one check in recent years, when I used the wrong book (for a terminated account) to pay a lawn man.  I had one check given to me bounce in 1974 (for about $600) bounced when I was selling a car as I moved into NYC, but the person (a former coworker) made good.  When I lived in New York in the 1970s, I did all my banking at savings banks for a while, finding it paid.  Later, I did use Banco Popular of Puerto Rico.   I almost had a job interview with a French bank.
When I worked for RMA in 2003, the debt collector who worked in the next cubicle and coached me and who was very good at it with a low-key approach said he didn’t have a checking account himself.  I thought that sounded strange.

I haven't run into this myself, but it is plausible that, in estate situations, banks could become concerned if heirs or trustees are complying with the terms of their papers.  When you have multiple accounts with different legal entities, it's well to know what you are doing.   
It would be a good question as to whether identity theft itself could stop people from being able to get accounts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

John Sileo offers identity theft prevention tips on the "Rachel" show; some are simple

Rachel, a syndicated cooking and home show on ABC, offered Identity Theft expert John Sileo today. Sileo says he almost went to jail when his identity was stolen, and lost $300000 that has not been recovered.
Sileo has authored the book “Privacy Means Profit: Prevent Identity Theft and Secure You and Your Bottom Line”, by Wiley.
Sileo suggested not carrying a Social Security Card, and not carrying the debit card around when not needed. He also suggested that insist that your debit card has a picture (mine with Bank of America does) and write “photo id required” on all cards that you use in person. 
He suggested putting all critical home documents in a heavy safe (although safes get stolen sometimes). 

It's very critical to protect smartphones with pin codes, should they be stolen in street robberies.
Since I am retired, I don’t use credit as often as others.  I did check my reports in April before traveling and they were clean.  It is harder to impersonate me than someone with a family and a more complicated financial life.  My having published books probably makes it harder to impersonate me and get away with it, as does an unusual last name.
Sileo said that most identity theft comes from three sources: people who know you who are down and out, local criminals (especially drug addicts, who are more prone to dumpster diving), and organized crime.  He also described medical identity theft, which sounds hard to pull off.
Sileo is also an expert on data breaches and wireless security.
Identity theft is particularly problematic in an individualistic society that assumes a person is ultimately responsible for the integrity of his own identity and doesn't require businesses and employers to offer the benefit of the doubt. 
Lifetime aired a film “Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story”, in 2004, about an unbelievable case of theft promulgated by an immigrant domestic employee. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Sam's Club offers MasterCard with new EMV chip technology; should be commonplace by Oct 2015

Sam’s Club (associated with Wal-Mart) will become the first major retailer in the US to offer a credit card (in this case, a MasterCard) with EMV computer chip technology, making it harder for identity thieves to duplicate.   The story was in the media Tuesday and was reported in the Wall Street Journal June 4 by Michael Calia, here
MasterCard and Visa have set an informal deadline of October 2015 for most major retailers to offer this technology with new or replacement credit cards.  The technology is most critical with debit cards.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Identity thieves want everything from you (ABC)

ABC News has laid it on the line with a story, "the eight numbers that identity thieves want", with the link for the story here. This is one of those annoying articles where you have to click separately to see each tip.
Most of these are rather obvious (like social security number).  Some of them are more disturbing, like IP address, or health insurance account number.  If you think about it, it's still far too easy for thieves to get a hold of home addresses (even if not listed) because we have to carry them around on our driver's licenses and passports.  (Oh, the want passport numbers).