This is a lame way to start off the new series of content, but this morning I found myself in an argument with an individual who had previously suffered the consequences of identity theft. We were discussing a charge on another person’s statement, the origin of which was unknown.
While instructing this third party on the correct course of action, my opponent stated that it was the bank’s responsibility to protect their customers from fraudulent charges. While I do believe that the bank has some responsibility, I do not place the full burden on them. The measures put in place by the banks are more than enough. In order to authorize a transaction, a person would have to have your name, address, card number, card expiration date, and card security number. If we cannot be trusted to keep at least one piece of information safe, then it is due to our own negligence that our money has been lost. This does not mean that money lost is gone forever. I fully support the cooperation of banks and their customers to locate and prosecute criminals engaged in this activity.
Back to the topic, however. At what point do we draw the line between bank responsibility and customer responsibility? Or, as is often the case, bank negligence and customer negligence? This question calls for a stronger definition of the purpose of banks, however, this is already clearly defined by the contracts we sign in order to utilize these banks. I, for one, feel that the bank should not have direct oversight over my transactions. Before I’m presented with hypothetical situations, let me present one that actually happened to me. When I was preparing to attend the U.S. Military Academy, I was instructed to open a checking account, which I did, at a Chase bank in Arizona. However, when I moved to New York, during months of Cadet Basic Training, I found my debit card had been deactivated. After forfeiting very necessary goods due to this, I called the bank with a phone call typically used to call family. They had deactivated my card because the account was registered in Arizona and the transaction was in New York. I was astounded by this, because there was only one card linked to the account, I was the only one with the PIN, and I had never reported the card stolen! On top of all of this, I had expressly told my banker that I would be moving to New York, and she had guaranteed me that this would never happen. Needless to say, I was frustrated, but I removed the controls on the account immediately, and have made sure that I, not a bank computer system or algorithm, am in full control of my money at all times, even when it’s in someone else’s possession.