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Banks want to know why you want your money, "know their customer" all too well

Previous Politech message:
http://www.politechbot.com/2005/10/06/banks-bigger-privacy/

More on "Know Your Customer" rule:
http://www.cato.org/testimony/ct-ss030499.html


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Banks bigger privacy threat than Feds, CBS/NYT 
poll finds [priv]
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2005 11:33:37 -0400
From: Serge Egelman <egelman@cs.cmu.edu>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
CC: dave@farber.net, xsheng@andrew.cmu.edu
References: <4344C35D.1080409@well.com>


For what it's worth, I just had an interesting bank experience two
weeks ago.  I was buying a motorcycle from a classified ad, and the
guy wanted an $1800 cashier's check.  So I went to the bank, asked
the teller for the check, and proceeded to wait there for five
minutes while he stared at his terminal.  Finally I asked, "is
everything okay?" "Oh it's just routine, I'm trying to figure out
where you get your money."  I didn't really go any further, since I
just assumed that this was because of the PATRIOT Act (though he
never outright said that).

Afterwards, he says everything looks okay, and now needs to know why
I need the cashier's check (he said that for an amount this big, this
is standard procedure).  I debated long and hard about putting up a
fight on the grounds that this is my money, and I don't need to give
them a reason to withdraw it.  At first I was thinking of just saying
"drugs" to see what the reaction would be, and if they would actually
prevent me from withdrawing my money because they don't approve of
how I'm going to spend it.  But instead I told the truth.

I later relayed this story to my adviser here at CMU (this happened
at PNC).  She said I should have said something like "it's for my
girlfriend to get an abortion."  While it would have been interesting
to see the teller's response, this brings up a very serious point:
bank tellers are now in the same position as pharmacists in that they
can deny you service because of differing ideologies.  The difference
though, is that the bank scenario is a lot more serious as they are
sitting on your money (whereas in many cases you can go to a
different pharmacy).

serge

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Oct 11, 2005 in category privacy


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