Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Banking Woes

Identification. Here's how it works. You have something official from the government with your name and photo on it, like a driver's license, a military ID, or a passport. You bring it to the bank for certain transactions, like withdrawing money, cashing a check, or changing information on your account. Are you with me so far?

We at the bank look at the piece of ID. We check the date (and yes, it matters. Expired ID is worthless ID.), we look at the picture. We compare the name to your name, the picture to your picture, and use that match to confirm that yes, the person in front of us is the person on the account or on the check. That happens so fast that neither you nor I fully realize that it's happening until something doesn't line up. It's kind of like checking your blind spot when driving-- how you don't even know that you do it until you see someone riding in that blind spot right before you were about to change lanes. So you think, "Wow, good thing I happened to check that time! Just as there was a car there!" but then realize that you always check but without really registering that you do so.

So far: you bring ID, we verify ID. ID must match you. This doesn't seem that complicated, does it? It works quite well most of the time, actually. Here's when there's a problem... You can't bring in someone else's ID. Based on what I've described, that makes sense, right? We use the ID to authenticate the person standing in front of us, so if that person is presenting his mom's or wife's, or roommate's ID, it just doesn't work. If that worked, it would mean that anyone who can get hold of your driver's license could clean out your account or cash your paycheck. Imagine the possibilities: corrupt teenage children rifling their mothers' purses, pick-pockets and thieves galore, unscrupulous housemates, even unauthorized spouses. (Dude, just because I married Don and opened joint bank accounts with him doesn't mean that he can take money from my personal accounts. Spouses can have gambling addictions, drug problems, affairs, or any number of reasons that one half of a married couple wouldn't want the other to do whatever they wanted with their money. As one manager pointed out to me, you never know who's on the brink of a divorce... and anyways, since when does marriage grant access to someone's money?)

Scenario: man shows up trying to cash a check written to someone else-- a woman, even. We explain that the only person that can cash a check is the person it is written to... kind of the whole point of checks, really. Man exclaims, "but I have her driver's license!" As though I'm suddenly going to go, "Oh! In that case of course you are authorized to cash this woman's checks! Why didn't you say so before!" Please! If it is so important that "she" get her money, make a deposit for her and she can withdraw at the ATM shortly. Sure, you probably have permission to try to do this. But that off chance that you stole her purse with both check and ID inside overrules.

Some common sense here, people. Don't give your checks to someone else to cash and then get mad at the bank for protecting you and your assets. Just be glad that we care more than you do, apparently.

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