Don't Let Your Bank
Bully You Into Divulging Confidential Information (How Do You Know The Person
Purporting To Represent Your Bank Isn't A
Increasing numbers of bank
customers are receiving letters from people purporting to represent their bank.
The letters demand to see passports, birth certificates and other forms of
identification and warn of dire consequences if these aren't sent.
Complying with these demands may severely damage your financial
The absurd demands now being made by banks of their customers are
allegedly done to help fight the war on terrorism and money laundering.
This is nonsense.
The demands for private, confidential
information are unlikely to have any effect on criminals or terrorists - who
will invariably be able to supply van-loads of false or well forged papers. (As
far as I am aware not one criminal or terrorist has yet been caught as a result
of these absurd identity checks.)
I recently received a letter from
someone claiming to represent the Bank of Scotland. I was asked to send an
original document, such as a birth certificate, driving licence, rent card or
current firearm certificate, to prove my identity and was told that this would
help the bank fight crime and terrorism. But the letter came from someone I'd
never heard of and from an address that was entirely new to me and doesn't
appear on normal bank correspondence. The letter ended with a printed signature.
I was asked to send the required private document to another address I'd never
I wrote back to the bank pointing out that since identity theft
is now a major problem I did not want to release any personal documents until I
received a signed letter from a senior bank officer who undertook to take
personal responsibility for the security and safe return of my document. I also
insisted that the bank should confirm that it would make no copies of my
I pointed out that my requirements were designed to protect the
security of the bank, the nation and myself and added that the careless disposal
of unwanted documents by financial institutions has been alleged to be a factor
in the spread of identity theft. I explained that the letter purporting to come
from the bank had a printed signature, that the address on the letterhead did
not match the Bank's address on previous communications and that the address on
the ready paid envelope I was sent bore no relationship to the Bank's address
which I already had.
I heard nothing more from the bank - even though I
sent a copy of the letter I received from the bank's alleged `Know Your Customer
Team' to my normal contact.
Maybe the letter was a hoax and wasn't from
the Bank of Scotland at all. Maybe a terrorist group was collecting birth
certificates, driving licences, rent books and firearm
These alleged identity checks are a dangerous, time wasting
Thousands of customers of major banks have already been tricked
into supplying confidential information via the internet. Criminals use the
information they obtain (such as passwords) to steal money or to hijack the
identities of the people they trick. Fraudulent e-mails, tricking customers into
parting with personal details, cost American banks and credit card companies
$1.2 billion in 2003.
There is no reason why crooks won't use the
ordinary mail to trick bank customers.
They don't even need to know for
certain that you have an account with a specific bank. If they pretend to
represent a major bank and send off 1,000 letters to 1,000 names taken at random
there is a good chance that 10% of the individuals targetted will have an
account with the bank that has been selected.
My advice: be very wary
about sending information to anyone purporting to represent a
Remember: demands for confidential information are nothing to do
with the war on terrorism. Terrorists and money launderers will not be caught
this way. Banks - and the Governments which force them to collect information -
demand confidential information - and invade your privacy - for their own
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2004