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Pay Your Credit Card, Get Flagged As A Terrorist!
via, columnist Bob Kerr writes that a couple paid off their $6,522 in credit card debt on their JC Penney Platinum MasterCard (what's next, Burger King Platinum MasterCards?) -- only to get flagged by Homeland Security:

After sending in the check, they checked online to see if their account had been duly credited. They learned that the check had arrived, but the amount available for credit on their account hadn't changed.

So Deana Soehnge called the credit-card company. Then Walter called.

"When you mess with my money, I want to know why," he said.

They both learned the same astounding piece of information about the little things that can set the threat sensors to beeping and blinking.

They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted.

Walter called television stations, the American Civil Liberties Union and me. And he went on the Internet to see what he could learn. He learned about changes in something called the Bank Privacy Act.

"The more I'm on, the scarier it gets," he said. "It's scary how easily someone in Homeland Security can get permission to spy."

Eventually, his and his wife's money was freed up. The Soehnges were apparently found not to be promoting global terrorism under the guise of paying a credit-card bill. They never did learn how a large credit card payment can pose a security threat.

But the experience has been a reminder that a small piece of privacy has been surrendered. Walter Soehnge, who says he holds solid, middle-of-the-road American beliefs, worries about rights being lost.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to others," he said.

Posted by aalkon at March 3, 2006 6:47 AM


But the experience has been a reminder that a small piece of privacy has been surrendered.

Incorrect. The banking industry had been under obligation to report suspicious transactions for decades. Walter is worrying about 'rights' being lost because he is understandably ignorant of the rules governing banking.

Posted by: Oligonicella at March 3, 2006 7:24 AM

A mini-version of this couple's dilemma: went to use my Bank of America Debit/Visa the other day to purchase some baking supplies: declined. Tried again: declined. I knew there was money in there, so, called B of A: they said they'd suspended the account because of "suspicious activity." Uh, did they think to notify me? Well, they should have, they said; didn't know why they hadn't. I asked, what sort of activity? It took twenty minutes, but eventually, it turns out to be... my signing up for Netflix. Yes, that $14.99 a month direct debit was, to B of A, highly suspect, foreign films and all that. I assured them it was MY DAMN ACCOUNT. They said, they'd reinstate the card.
They didn't.
I stopped putting money in the account, and planned to cancel it. Ah, but not soon enough, because even though THEY PUT THE HOLD ON THE ACCOUNT, they charged me a monthly fee, which overdrew me, for which they charged me $31.
I got the bank manager to take off the fees, and closed the account, which is when he told me that there was flag on my account saying, "CONFIRMED FRAUD." When I asked why, he said, he had no idea.

Posted by: nancy at March 3, 2006 9:24 AM

Yes, paying more than the monthly minimum on your debt is seen as a threat to our American way of life. Why am I no longer surprised by anything?

Posted by: silo at March 3, 2006 9:25 AM

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