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Old 11-09-2012, 02:59 AM   #1
melindamusil
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bank/financial privacy

How much privacy is automatically given to the customers of a bank in the US? I understand that Johnny Q. Public can't just walk in off the street and ask for information on a customer, but if a law enforcement agent needed information for an investigation (like addresses, how much money is in the account, who has access to the account, etc.) would they automatically need a warrant?

Are banks ever willing to cooperate and give that information without a warrant (as a good-faith/we support law enforcement/we have nothing to hide thing)?
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Old 11-10-2012, 01:49 AM   #2
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This is something I'd like to know too. I had an account with one national banking chain. Then I learned that there was a branch of this bank on the other side of the country that had allowed people's assets and account numbers to be displayed online as part of the freedom of information act. So I removed my assets from that bank and switched my account to a small local bank. In the meantime someone complained about what that bank chain had allowed, and the practice was discontinued. I do know that each bank has a privacy statement that is given out periodically with the bank statements, but reading that stuff is like reading gobble-de-goop. So... Are we ever completely safe? No. Legalese makes sure we aren't.
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Old 11-10-2012, 02:12 AM   #3
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In the US, federal agencies seeking private financial information are covered by the Right to Financial Privacy Act, which says "no Government authority may have access to or obtain copies of, or the information contained in the financial records of any customer from a financial institution unless the financial records are reasonably described" and the customer either consents to the disclosure or the agency has a warrant or subpoena or other appropriate authorization to obtain the information. The government agency has to give the customer notice and an opportunity to contest the access before the financial institution discloses any information.

This doesn't cover local law enforcement, like police departments, but many states have similar laws in place that govern the access in much the same way.
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Old 11-10-2012, 09:36 AM   #4
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Officially, it'd take a search warrant or subpoena - as Ketzel mentioned... then there are hackers and all bets are off.
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Old 11-10-2012, 12:45 PM   #5
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Don't forget though that banks are required to report transactions over $10,000 and may also report transactions of smaller amounts if they seem suspicious. And, a suspicious transaction can include multiple transaction under $10K, because then you may be doing it to avoid the reporting requirement, or just transaction that are "out of character" for that customer. (Someone who is broke suddenly makes a large deposit, etc).
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Old 11-10-2012, 06:35 PM   #6
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Can't speak about the US, but my UK experience was that nothing would be revealed on demand to anyone about a customer without prior reference to Head Office.

Quote:
Originally Posted by melindamusil View Post
How much privacy is automatically given to the customers of a bank in the US? I understand that Johnny Q. Public can't just walk in off the street and ask for information on a customer, but if a law enforcement agent needed information for an investigation (like addresses, how much money is in the account, who has access to the account, etc.) would they automatically need a warrant?

Are banks ever willing to cooperate and give that information without a warrant (as a good-faith/we support law enforcement/we have nothing to hide thing)?
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Old 11-11-2012, 05:40 AM   #7
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Looks like they need a search warrant. For details check this article.

In the US this means that they have to go to a judge and provide him/her with information showing they have a justifiable reason to do so. If the judge is satisfied that a crime may have been committed, then they will usually grant the warrant.
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Old 11-11-2012, 06:49 AM   #8
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Thanks guys. Maybe I'll just throw in a crooked IRS agent or bank employee!
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