Skip to comments.Thanks to Government, Banks Now Treat You Like Crap and Spy on You
Posted on 01/29/2014 8:08:45 AM PST by Kaslin
People are getting increasingly agitated about being spied on by government.
The snoops at the National Security Agency have gotten the most attention, and those bureaucrats are in the challenging position of trying to justify massive invasions of our privacy when they cant show any evidence that this voyeurism has stopped a single terrorist attack.
And lets not forget that some politicians and bureaucrats want to track our driving habits with GPS devices. Their immediate goal is taxing us (gee, what a surprise), but does anyone doubt that the next step would be a database of our movements?
But the worst example of government spying may be the web of laws and regulations that require banks to monitor our bank accounts and to share millions of reports about our financial transactions with the Treasury Departments Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
Money laundering laws were adopted beginning about 30 years ago based on the theory that we could lower crime rates by making it more difficult for crooks to utilize the financial system.
Theres nothing wrong with that approach, at least in theory. But these laws have become very expensive and intrusive, yet theyve had no measurable impact on crime rates.
As you might expect, politicians and bureaucrats have decided to double down on failure and theyre making anti-money laundering laws more onerous, imposing ever-higher costs in hopes of having some sort of positive impact. This is bad for banks, bad for the poor, and bad for the economy.
And its encouraging banks to treat customers like crap. Check out this ridiculous example included in a BBC report.
Stephen Cotton went to his local HSBC branch this month to withdraw £7,000 from his instant access savings account to pay back a loan from his mother. A year before, he had withdrawn a larger sum in cash from HSBC without a problem. But this time it was different, as he told Money Box: When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for. They wanted a letter from the person involved. Mr Cotton says the staff refused to tell him how much he could have: So I wrote out a few slips. I said, Can I have £5,000? They said no. I said, Can I have £4,000? They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, OK, well give you that. He asked if he could return later that day to withdraw another £3,000, but he was told he could not do the same thing twice in one day.
Heres another absurd story.
Peter from Wiltshire, who wanted his surname withheld, had a similar experience. He wanted to take out £10 000 cash from HSBC, some to pay to his sons and some to fund his long-haul travel plans. Peter phoned up the day before to give HSBC notice and everything seemed to be fine. The next day he got a call from his local branch asking him to pay his sons via a bank payment and to provide booking receipts for his holidays. Peter did not have any booking receipts to show.
Belinda Bell is another customer who was initially denied her cash, in her case to pay her builder. She told Money Box she had to provide the builders quote.
Why is the bank treating customers like dirt? Well, because theyre pressured to act that way thanks to anti-money laundering laws, which basically require them to act as if unusual transactions are criminal. In other words, customers are guilty until they prove themselves innocent.
HSBC has said We ask our customers about the purpose of large cash withdrawals when they are unusual and out of keeping with the normal running of their account. Since last November, in some instances we may have also asked these customers to show us evidence of what the cash is required for. The reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimise the opportunity for financial crime Money Box asked other banks what their policy is on large cash withdrawals. They all said they reserved the right to ask questions about large cash withdrawals.
Theyve reserved the right?!? I think Mr. Cotton was spot on when he groused, You shouldnt have to explain to your bank why you want that money. Its not theirs, its yours.
A few politicians also are unhappy about pointless government-mandated spying.
Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, is alarmed All these regulations which have been imposed on banks infantilises the customer. In a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent.
Not lets look at an example of how anti-money laundering laws lead to foolish intervention in the United States.
Well start with a feel-good story from Wired about an entrepreneur coming up with a service thats desired by consumers.
Mike Caldwell spent years turning digital currency into physical coins. That may sound like a paradox. But its true. He takes bitcoins the worlds most popular digital currency and then he mints them here in the physical world. by moving the digital currency into the physical realm, he also prevents hackers from stealing the stuff via an online attack. You send him bitcoins via the internet, and he sends you back metal coins via the U.S. Postal Service. To spend bitcoins, you need a secret digital key a string of numbers and letters and when Caldwell makes the coins, he hides this key behind a tamper-resistant strip. Caldwell takes a fee of about $50 on each coin he mints.
But our silver cloud has a dark lining.
he received a letter from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FINCEN, the arm of the Treasury Department that dictates how the nations anti-money-laundering and financial crime regulations are interpreted. According to FINCEN, Caldwell needs to rethink his business. They considered my activity to be money transmitting, Caldwell says. And if you want to transmit money, you must first jump through a lot of state and federal regulatory hoops Caldwell hasnt jumped through.
And since the hoops are very expensive, we have yet another example of foolish red tape killing a business.
Running afoul of FINCEN is a risky proposition. In the spring, the Department of Homeland Security seized two bank accounts belonging to Mt. Gox. The reasoning behind the $5 million seizure: Mt. Gox, like Caldwell, hadnt registered itself as a money transmission business. Because he runs a bitcoin-only business, Caldwell says theres no Casascius bank account for authorities to seize. But he adds that he has no desire to anger the feds, whether he agrees with them or not. So hes cranking out his last few orders.
Im not saying, by the way, that bitcoins are necessarily a good way to hold wealth.
But I do believe that its good to see the evolution of private forms of money as a hedge against bad government policy. As I wrote back in 2011, I have no way of knowing how well this system will work and how insulated it will be from government interference, but I very much hope it will be successful. Governments will never behave if they think people have no escape options.
Unfortunately, politicians and bureaucrats are in the process of trying to shut down that escape option.
P.S. Switching to a different topic, I dont know if there are any big policy implications, but I was fascinated to find this map in my twitter feed. It shows the first word that pops up when you ask why a country is so ____?
Here are my observations, for what its worth. Luxembourg and Switzerland are tax havens, so its no surprise that they are rich. Other nations should mimictheir successful policies.
Norway, meanwhile, is rich because of oil.
I had no idea the Italians were supposed to be racist, though obviously this map merely shows what Google users are searching for, not whats actually true.
Im mystified that Macedonia is important, though I suspect Greece was similarly labeled because it is the first domino of the European debt crisis. Hardly something to be proud of.
Im also surprised that Lithuanians are perceived as suicidal. Isnt that a Swedish stereotype?
Croatia is beautiful, Ill agree, at least along the coast.
The neglected people from Montenegro dont even get a word! Heck, even the Kosovars and Moldovans have Google words.
I wont comment on the stereotype about France, other than to say that the nation did get in the top-10 on a poll for attractiveness.
P.P.S. Since were discussing European stereotypes, heres some politically incorrect terrorism humor from a British friend.
P.P.P.S. Speaking of stereotypes, heres some polling data on how the Europeans see each other. Im not sure how to interpret these results, other than to say that trustworthy people apparently are arrogant and lack compassion.
P.P.P.P.S. It goes without saying that I cant resist the temptation to sharethese satirical maps on how the Greeks and Brits view their European neighbors.
P.P.P.P.P.S. Since the main topic of this post is money laundering, lets end with a joke about how President Obama dealt with these foolish laws.
Gee, how and when did those laws get passed?
Hint ‘Keepin you safe’ LOL
Get your money and investments out of the government (nationalized) banks and that will end any control by this government over your money. Convert it to silver and gold where the government cannot track or control your money. Bartering is also a way to do private business without government oversight and spying!
Nothing requires you as an American to participate in anything controlled or monitored by this out of control communist government!
Just like Government Motors (GM)! Why would anyone purchase a vehicle from GM? Can you imagine the platform which the government has placed spying equipment on? Run, run real fast away from GM and do not pass go or collect 100 dollars! Stay away from anything government period!
End of problem!
It’s been known for a while, the banks invade privacy requiring a fingerprint to cash a check, that no govt agency will stop them. Cause when people get used to fingerprint crap, they won’t rebel against a govt doing it to everyone.
The banks initially take the customer wrath on fingerprints but in the end when it becomes mainstream, the govt will get the pass.
Is the destruction of the Fourth Amendment for Americans worth it?
Are you REALLY sure they government won't abuse the records it collects in violation of the Fourth Amendment to harass you like the IRS harasses conservatives? How can you be sure?
At least until the coming wave of ant-banker populism.
Then they’ll be getting weekly televised floggings in Yankee Stadium.
“why is obama so”
and then finish it with an adjective of your own.
Didn't the patriot Act do some related stuff, to cut off terrorist funding?
And this is new how?
I’m sure the PATRIOT Act did all sorts of new things. But, as my FReeper friends kept telling me back then, these are different times now, and we had to support the President.
My bank wanted my phone number and sent me a letter claiming it would freeze one of my accounts, just to to get me on the phone.
Once I called they wanted to sell me investment packages, and they gave my phone number to their home equity loan department who called me with a pitch, the last thing I was interested in.
And of course, the real irony is that the only entity in the OP’s posted article that was ever involved in money laundering is HSBC itself, for which they paid a fine that represented a small percentage of their profits from said money laundering. It’s a tidy system.
Having turned on GWB in his second term ~ 2006 , not as late as 2011 like many we know did, I am amazed how the GOP ‘conservative establishment theme’ changed so dramatically from safety to freedom or liberty.
Still got Bush loyalists mouthing the words to use it against Obama.
Crap on you AND spy on you-Just like our government.
I ssed to be able to pay every 2 weeks (like when pay day falls) Used to be able to do this no problem, as long as paid in full before the due date. I could pay extra and allocate as you like to escrow and/or principle.
Can’t do that now with their latest ‘revision’ to their website. It’s all or nothing and they’ve apparently come up with a place to put any extra you’ve paid into a special ‘unallocated suspense fund’ that you have to call to reallocate back to where you told them to put it in the first place.(principle)
My assumption is this is done to make it more difficult to pay off your loan early and also pimp their own version of their own automated program to pay off your mortgage a little faster via automatic withdrawals (for extra fees, of course) Watch your bank mortgage statements and save paper copies...something hinky this way comes.