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Financial Responsibility == Terrorism? 1086

An anonymous reader writes "Capital Hill Blue is reporting that recently a retired Texas schoolteacher and his wife had a little run in with the Department of Homeland Security. The crime? Paying down some debt. From the article: 'The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522. And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable. [...] 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.'"
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Financial Responsibility == Terrorism?

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  • I have no idea why a much larger than normal payment would trigger red flags for suspicious behavior. But then, I'm not responsible for Homeland Security.

    From the article:

    Eventually, his and his wife's money was freed up.

    The flags were cleared, they didn't lose money, they don't live under a cloud of suspicion.

    Until or unless we know what behaviors might be red flags for suspicious possibly terrorism-related activity, this story is mildly interesting at best.

    The headline for this article is misleading at best: "Financial Responsibility == Terrorism". Noone was accused of terrorism. And, writing a check for $6500 on a credit card sounds to me like typical financial matters, but maybe not "responsible", i.e., we have no idea if they were running large balances against no income, etc. (As a matter of fact, they say in the article they were making this payment because their balance "had gotten to an unhealthy level".

    As for unusual financial transactions raising flags, this is not new as reflected in one of the posts in the referenced article:

    This kind of spying isn't new. I bought a vehicle in 1990 and wrote a check for it. The dealer had to record where I got the money because "the IRS wants to know the source of any payment in excess of a certain dollar amount." No proof required, just a statement. No idea what they did with the info.

    Of course, I'm sacrificing karma to take the unpopular view.

  • Catcher in The Rye (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Krach42 ( 227798 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:35PM (#14863430) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, it's getting pretty bad. Everything you have to notify the government for.

    When I was flying back from Europe, I had to fill out a form with who I was, and my home address, and an emergency contact (if I so wished).

    They set it up like it's some sort of idea that all flights into the US require all US citizens to be recognized and accounted for, so that if it goes down? or something like that? that they can know for sure who was on board, and can start contacting people ahead of time?

    The requirements for entering the US are so ridiculously more complex than any other country I've visited.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:39PM (#14863451)
    I am a consultant for a large national bank and just took this Money Laundering course. Wow, was it creepy. Yes, if you are a stupid crook you will get caught. If you are a normal human being you can get really nailed.

    The weird bit about this class was the continual referece to getting to know you customer. Which is of course imposible. So they set out all these questions and senerios to help you "GUESS" if there was a problem.

  • Molehill != Mountain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:40PM (#14863460)
    Large financial transactions are monitored. They always have been. However, the threshold of "what's interesting" to the government has been lowered. Do I think this particular instance makes sense? Of course not. The government is simply trying to track "large" movements of cash that are outside of the mainstream to catch money laundering. I had a similar experience recently when I bought a new car and paid cash (recently inherited some $$$). Do I find it annoying? Yes. However, I also find it a necessary nuissance to help keep smugglers and criminals from easily moving money around through our banking system.

    If you've got a better solution, I'd love to hear it.
  • by Transcendent ( 204992 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:41PM (#14863473)
    I've payed my tuition on my credit card a few times (almost $5,000) and paid it off the next day. No interest, no fees... just 1% cash back!

    Though, I suppose JCPenny is more... terrorist friendly??
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:43PM (#14863494)
    Although it is definitely misapplied in this case.

    Here's how you can use a credit card to launder money:

    1. Sign up for a credit card.
    2. Charge a few things on it, say, $100.
    3. Send in a check to pay your credit card bill. Say $5000.
    4. When you "find out" you overpaid, request a refund.

    I know, this sounds like a pretty crappy money laundering scheme. And it is. But enough people have done it that banks have to look out for it. So when you overpay your bill by too much, alarms go off.

    Other things that set alarms off:
    1. Cash deposits over $600 (I may be slightly off on this amount, can't remember off the top of my head)
    2. Many cash deposits slightly under $600 (seemingly to dodge the $600 alarm)

    There's other stuff that will do it too. Can't remember them at the moment though.
  • Not that ridiculous (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:45PM (#14863506)
    Aside from the massive privacy implications that concern us all, it's not that ridiculous to be suspicious of someone suddenly paying off a large amount of their bills, especially if there's nothing in their history to suggest that they'd be able to. Honestly, large cash influxes to do so often mean promotions at work, winning the lottery, etc., but they also can be a sign of a whole host of unsavory sources of income -- domestic drug dealing, acting as an agent/mule to the international drug trade, prostitution, gambling, spying, etc.

    Whether we like to admit it or not, money is a primary motivating force behind questionable activity. Money, sex, drugs, and ideology are pretty much the big four. Whenever there's a red flag in those areas, it's reasonable to think what's going on might be suspicious. Whether or not that warrants being formally investigated is another point entirely, but you can't deny that someone who only pays off a small amount of their bills suddenly having the ability to pay off $6000+ looks suspicious at least on paper.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:46PM (#14863508)
    From the article:

            Eventually, his and his wife's money was freed up.

    The flags were cleared, they didn't lose money, they don't live under a cloud of suspicion.

    Oh, that's quite okay then. I guess it's fine to confiscate people's money as long as you give it back in the end (I hope they got paid it back with interest, otherwise they did lose money), and there's no problem with investigating people for entirely spurious reasons as long as you don't cause them too much mental anguish while you're busy accusing them of acting like terrorists.

    Big Brother is watching you, but don't worry, he's a very kind big brother and he won't torture you if you haven't done anything naughty!*

    * Unless you look kind of foreign.

    And, writing a check for $6500 on a credit card sounds to me like typical financial matters, but maybe not "responsible", i.e., we have no idea if they were running large balances against no income, etc. (As a matter of fact, they say in the article they were making this payment because their balance "had gotten to an unhealthy level".

    And? That's between them and their bank. If they're running large balances against no income, their bank would be unwise to continue to lend them money, and should consider requiring security for any further loans. I fail to see where homeland security comes into it.

    As for unusual financial transactions raising flags, this is not new as reflected in one of the posts in the referenced article:
    This kind of spying isn't new. I bought a vehicle in 1990 and wrote a check for it. The dealer had to record where I got the money because "the IRS wants to know the source of any payment in excess of a certain dollar amount."

    Again, that makes sense. The IRS clearly needs to keep track of large money transfers. The American people have generally accepted the idea of federal taxes, and as such accept that a federal tax agency needs to know who has what money so they can be taxed correctly (and punished if they're not paying their fair share). Homeland security doesn't come into it.

    Even if you take the line that large payments might be a sign of money-laundering going on, surely money-laundering is the FBI's remit, not the Secret Police^W^WHomeland Security?

    America - still more free than North Korea!
  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <`gro.uaeb' `ta' `sirromj'> on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:48PM (#14863521)
    This isn't even about terrorism, this is part of the War On Some Drugs. This is "Know Your Customer" from years ago, been going on over a decade in one form or another.

    Any unexpected transaction these days gets the once over, any cash purchase over X gets reported to the FBI. (Last I heard, X was $10K) Buy a car with cash, get investigated. Walk into an airport with a sack of cash and it will simply be taken, no appeals, no trial, no recourse. Simply being in an airport with cash is a crime subject to asset forfeiture. Bitch too loud and they will simply arrest you along with the money. Been that way since the '80s.
  • by Vicissidude ( 878310 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:49PM (#14863530)
    I have no idea why a much larger than normal payment would trigger red flags for suspicious behavior.

    The question is what did you do to get all this extra money? Did you commit a crime? Or did someone of disrepute give you the money to launder?

    The purpose of these laws is to make a big stack of cash relatively useless. That helps make stealing or otherwise illegitimately "earning" a big stack of cash less inviting. Sure, you can steal a million dollars, but then you can't do anything with it.

  • by ocelotbob ( 173602 ) <ocelot&ocelotbob,org> on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:50PM (#14863532) Homepage
    How about cutting off smugglers and criminals from the other end, like I don't know, ending the war on drugs? Would cut down on a hell of a lot of money laundering, end corruption, lower street crime, and lower taxes. Or do you hate freedom?
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ejdmoo ( 193585 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:53PM (#14863564)
    Perhaps the threshold is a percentile for the company...

    In this case, I think a $6,000 payment to JC Penny (a department store) is quite unusual.

    Now, to figure out who's laundering money through JC Penny...
  • Re:My experience (Score:2, Interesting)

    by poochNik ( 51956 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:13PM (#14863701)
    One of the benefits of /. is that experts in particular areas can comment on technical issues and get modded up or down based on their expertise or lack thereof (or humor). When the subject is political, however, the modding seems based on bias, which, to me, makes the system pointless unless, as in this post, the person has actual experience that relates to the topic--that has some merit, at least.
  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:18PM (#14863732) Homepage
    I had to fill out all these forms to tell them how much money I made last year. I had to tell them all sorts of other information. If that's not an invasion of privacy, I don't know what is.
  • Re:No problem here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thc69 ( 98798 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:21PM (#14863750) Homepage Journal
    The construction company where I work has never been asked to report five figure checks, and we get them all the time.

    Bob Kerr's column is full of stories like this. Some are more believable than others. This one lacks substantiating evidence, and is pretty tough to believe without it. Since 9/11, I've made transactions like that, and I'm not even old and retired; I'm young and can barely make the payments on my raised ranch...I've never had this sort of problem.

    Why would the company not post the transaction while they investigate? Wouldn't it make more sense to NOT alert "terrorists" that they're suspects?

    I'd like to see some proof, so I'll know to be properly scared when I pay off credit cards.
  • Re:No problem here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by (H)elix1 ( 231155 ) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:21PM (#14863754) Homepage Journal
    I twice have purchased a new car at the dealer by writing a five-figure check for the full amount before driving away. I had no problems either time.

    You wired the money... Two cars ago I paid for a nice car with cash. I had the money at hand, depositing checks from multiple accounts, only to have some clown try to charge me for a cashiers check and hassle me about when funds were ready (moving from accounts within the same bank) because they had to certify things. I was certified or at least fit to be tied - so I said fine - I'm not paying for a check, give it to me in cash. (for the record, my bride said it was a bad idea) I expected hassles from the bank, who delayed, had me fill out forms, and do a thumbprint.

    The car dealership were the once that surprised me. Seems spending a healthy amount of cash for a car set off flags there as well. They asked if I could deposit the money and write a check! Several forms later, and a 'I told you so...' I had the car. Pre-war on Eurasia, so I suspect things are worse today.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:23PM (#14863768)
    While the original sources of this story aren't the most reliable in the world, it's likely that there's some truth to it. There's a reasonable discussion at http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/03/the_ terrorist_t.html [schneier.com] . Essentially, cash transactions over $10K have always been monitored, but now financial institutions other than banks have to do analogous reporting. And DHS has nothing to do with it; it's FinCEN, which is part of the Treasury Department. The fact that the person in question triggered such an inquiry at $6500 is probably due to the wide latitude that the regulations give to financial institutions to implement the reporting requirements.
  • by ewlie ( 959402 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:27PM (#14863794)
    Along similar but perhaps sillier lines, I contacted freescale semiconductor with a question about how to handle a particular floating point error in a PowerPC processor. I received an interesting email stating: "Unfortunately at this time due to the Transactions Regulations (31CFR560) administered by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control we not able to respond to your inquiry" I was stunned!, I live in Australia, a supposed ally of the USA in the war in Iraq (though much of the populace does not support it) However when I got to the bottom of it, I had accidentally entered my country of residence in the log-in profile as 'Afganistan' instead of 'Australia' Obviously, we can't have terrorists knowing about how to handle a floating point error can we!! Anyway, once I changed my profile to 'Australia' all was good. Glad most terrorists wouldnt think of doing that... John
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:29PM (#14863809)
    Well it is interesting that they go after the overpayment of credit cards. But what about the people who made boatloads of money on 9/11 betting on the airline stocks to crash. It was well documented that right before 9/11 there were lots of (put/call?) options placed on the stocks betting that they would drop.
        There was a lot of noise made about it initially, since this money could be tracked, but nothing ever came about. I read some report that the non-action was due to "privacy" constraints.

  • Re:My experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hiro Antagonist ( 310179 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:30PM (#14863817) Journal
    Oh, I understand, but that's why we (in theory) have a represenative government -- to put supposedly wise people in between power and the slobbering masses. This is supposed to prevent decisions from being made impulsively by large-scale flash mobs.

    Obviously, this isn't working, as politicans will more often than not encourage moblike behavior, because it makes it easier for them to get re-elected.

    So I think that while the government *has* to do something, they shouldn't, because they're supposed to exercise more temperance and good judgement than Joe Sixpack. That way, the time can be taken to find effective solutions, and when the tide of 'do something, now!' blows over, the problem will actually be fixed.

    Then again, that would be a rational way to deal with things.
  • by babbling ( 952366 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:31PM (#14863822)
    To divert suspicion. "Mr Anyone" is a suspected terrorist, because terrorists will always attempt to act just like "Mr Anyone" would.

    For this reason, fighting terrorism by trying to detect terrorists is a flawed approach unless you want to live in a police state, and even then, terrorists will probably still manage to carry out their attacks.

    The correct way to fix the terrorism problem is to stop people from wanting to blow you up. This involves:
    - Finding out why people want to blow you up. (may have something to do with you occupying their country)
    - Fixing that problem.

    Ever notice how Sweden, Canada and most countries in Europe are not afraid of terrorist attacks, don't have much security, and yet still don't get attacked? Interesting.
  • Re:??? WTF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eccles ( 932 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:41PM (#14863873) Journal
    Yes, but an estate can only be responsible for debt up to the value of the estate. You don't owe money if your indigent uncle dies. Under some circumstances they can pursue your assets if they have evidence they were co-owned by the deceased, but that's about it.

    I am not a lawyer.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Clod9 ( 665325 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:41PM (#14863875) Journal
    Wow, that's pretty heady stuff. So it's not just a crime to be laundering money, it's a crime to LOOK like you're laundering money?

    In effect, if you don't want the government to observe you, and you act accordingly, that in itself will get you reported and can lead to you being charged with a crime. Thoughtcrime, indeed.

  • Re:??? WTF (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Foerstner ( 931398 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:43PM (#14863883)
    Virtually everyone accused of terrorism in the United States in the past quarter-century has had little or nothing in the way of an "estate" or "next of kin." If anything, they have an incentive to avoid any permanent ties. Even if there were a married-with-children terrorist, I doubt concern for his family's financial liability would deter him or her from incurring large debts.

    (See: Ted Kaczynski, the Oklahoma City guys, the World Trade Center truckbomb guys, and the September 11 guys.)
  • Re:My experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <{tms} {at} {infamous.net}> on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:51PM (#14863909) Homepage
    none of those things have ANYTHING to do with my defence of financial inspections in this case which cost the supposed "victim" nothing

    Some of us value privacy, and believe that having agents of the state pouring over our records is, in and of itself, a harm and a cost.

    There's a reason voyeurism is a crime, even though by your arguement it costs the supposed "victim" nothing

    did not involve an unrestricted warrant on his property

    The Fourth Amendment guards not only our property but our papers. That those papers are held by our agent - a financial institution - makes no difference.

  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:51PM (#14863913) Homepage
    Nice article, and it goes into just enough detail to explain how the system works.

    I think the summary is.
    The person was informed that cash movement of over $10k has to be reported.

    They then stop their normal legitimate pattern to avoid this reporting. In this case they were clearly trying to avoid the reporting system. They not only dropped most of their transactions below $10k, but also made deposits through an intermediary to avoid detection.

    It would be similarly suspicious if someone went out of their way to use the store exit that didn't have the RFID tag sensors, but ONLY after being told that exit didn't have them.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hiro Antagonist ( 310179 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:53PM (#14863927) Journal
    I think you need to look up the definition of 'straw man'; I think that government access to financial records, which includes purcase records, mind you, was the topic.

    Moreover, I hardly consider asking the government to abide by the Bill of Rights as an appeal to emotion, and I'd also think that suffices as a very concrete reason for being bothered. Nice try, though.

    Of course, the person involved wasn't incarcerated, but they had to take time out of their normal daily lives to deal with overzealous law enforcement; that's potentially lost wages, a hell of a lot of stress, and a very big pile of resentment, because innocent people *really* *hate* being accused of a crime, and doubly so when the accusation is for an asinine reason.

    More importantly, this guy did something small. Reeeeeeeeeeeally small. And he then had to justify his actions to law enforcement. What if he had done something only slightly more suspicious, like maybe paid off a few credit cards before nabbing some foreign currency for his upcoming vacation?

    Now, here's the emotional part:

    I am honestly scared every time I fly back into the U.S. I, personally, have never been mistreated by customs, but I've seen the harassment that more 'suspicious-looking' individuals have undergone, nevermind that I'm just as likely, if not more so, to be a terrorist as the Indian guy in line behind me.

    I am really bothered that my countrymen see nothing wrong with ignoring the Constitution whenever convenient. That Americans like seeing all those new 'security measures' at the airport, nevermind that it means that I've got no choice but to check my bags in whenever I travel, because my nail clippers might be a 'deadly weapon of terrorism'. Of course, the wine bottle I've got on me is totally safe, and could never be used to hurt anyone...

    More importantly, I'm really bothered that we pull stunts like this at home, along with the whole problem of not being able to run an election, while at the same time claiming abroad that we are 'champions of democracy and freedom'. People in other first-world countries don't hate Americans, but they certainly don't like our attitude when it comes to the soverignty of other countries.

    I'm not saying that we're the worst, of course; the German government is very serious about making sure the Nazis never rise to power again, and I've had friends dragged in front of the police (German citizens) because they did something to tip off the Nazi-o-meter. But the Germans don't claim to be the 'Land of the Free', we do. Why don't we act like it?

    Ok, end the emotional side of my rant.
  • Re:My experience (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SenatorOrrinHatch ( 741838 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:56PM (#14863937)
    My graduation present was a brand new Ford Explorer, paid for in cash (traded it in 8 weeks later for a Hyundai, but thats another thread). Anyhow, the salesman helpfully explained to us that we had to wait half an hour while they ran our names through homeland security, to make sure we werent about to engage in a terrorist act. I was thinking, omfg!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:02PM (#14863961)
    The reasoning behind this is because, generally, if you have that much debt, you do *not* have the means to pay it off. The reasoning continues that people deep in debt can get desperate--and indeed, they do. Many financial crimes have been born out of pure desperation.

    Therefore, they generally reason that any time you suddenly have a large pile of cash, they want to know where you got it from (the implication being that you might have stolen, embezzeled, or acquired it from some other illegal activity).

    But yeah, it's not exactly a good thing for your privacy. Even so, there are enough laws on the books that merely having too much *cash* is a bad thing. I think that you can be accused of drug trafficing or something silly for having more than $10k in cash, too, but IANAL and that may just be some random Internet rumour.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:05PM (#14863973)
    from the article: "Eventually, his and his wife's money was freed up."

    And the idiotic thing about this is if the retired Texan schoolteacher had actually been planning buying a truckload of fertilizer and diesel and driving it into a church/mosque/synagogue/abortion clinic; he would have been alerted that the feds were onto him and gone undergound; or accelerated his plan to get it done before he was caught. So as an anti-terrorism measure, it's counter-productive.

  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:16PM (#14864033)
    dude, i've been through this a couple of times with my bank.

    I freelance as a consultant for film. I fell into the gig by accident: I'd written a film for a producer (I was writing movies on the side at the time - doing pharma research during the day) and he needed me to do the financials for the film as well. He thought the financials were thorough enough to recommend me to his (rich) friends who were also looking to invest in film. They'd hire me to evaluate projects both as a line producer as well as market analysis in terms of prospects, etc.

    My first check from this endeavor was more money than I'd ever had at any single time. I was on set, so I had the money wired into the account.

    While on set (out of the country) I tried using my atm card. No dice. I couldn't log into my online banking. When I got home and went to the bank, I got the suspicious "wait right here" while the CS person went and got a manager. I told them what it was from and that it was legit. They did a background check. My account was frozen for 30 days while they checked it out. I got a business account after that - but occasionally, credits to the account are routinely frozen, especially if I'm dealing with a new client who hasn't wired in anything before. Apparently, entertainment shell companies are a favored vehicle of money launderers.

    Good times.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cagle_.25 ( 715952 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:36PM (#14864123) Journal
    I don't want my government looking into my financial affairs either. But you have to understand the letter and spirit of the law against structuring. You are *not* flagged simply for depositing $9999.99. You are flagged if

    (a) You show up at the bank with $15k,
    (b) The teller asks you to fill out the CTR form,
    (c) and you try to restructure your deposit to avoid the CTR requirement.

    You *know* that some law like this had to be on the books to try to minimally enforce filing requirements.

    If you don't like it, don't try to deposit all at once. Problem solved.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:41PM (#14864146)
    The bank didn't flag it (this all starts at the banks, their computers carefully watch things for fraud) because there was nothing out of the ordinary. A $5000 payment to a university twice a year is perfectly normal, and not a likely fraud candidate. Again the instant payment is nothing of any concern. Plenty of people pay off their credit cards very quickly, much to the chagrin of the credit card companies.

    Now what would probably raise a flag, though not necessiarly to the point that something would happen, is if you charged your school to a card and then just sat paying the minimum for a few years, then suddenly paid it all off at once. That's odd, why would you leave a big balance on there, costing you money, and not pay it off if you had the means? Where did the means to pay it come from all of a sudden? Probably perfectly legit, but worth looking in to.

    It's how banks catch credit card fraud as qucik as possible. For example my parents had their card stolen. Some idiot kid at a local store got the merchant recipt which has the full number and expiration date. He proceeded to order $1000 of merchandise from Gamestop.com to his home (told you he was dumb). Five minutes later my mom had a call from the bank asking her if this was legit. Ok but she charged thousands a month to this card, how'd they know to call?

    Three ways:

    1) The size of the transaction. Any large transaction is more suspect. While people certianly do rip of card for nickel and dime shit, it's much less common, and not nearly the liability for the bank.

    2) The oddness of the transaction. Though mom spent plenty on the card each month, she'd never shopped at Gamestop before, nor did she shop at places like it. Odd that she'd place an order all of a sudden to that place, espically one so large. Along those lines, it's just an odd merchant to by $1000 of stuff from. That's more a $50-300 kind of place.

    3) The fact it was a merchant to which there is a high amount of fraud. It was #1 on their list, acourind to the bank.

    Those three combined set of a red flag in the computer and notified a person, who reviewed it and decided ot call her. The card was then quickly canceled and the transaction stopped before it ever cleared.
  • by alex_guy_CA ( 748887 ) <alexNO@SPAMschoenfeldt.com> on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:46PM (#14864168) Homepage
    Next Monday, lets all pay down our largest bill by $1,000 or more. That should swamp their system for a day or two.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gooba42 ( 603597 ) <gooba42@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:48PM (#14864174)
    My grandparents and parents were intensely aware of their privacy and its erosion. For their generations though a good deal of that was considered just a side-effect of social or scientific progress.

    Microphones became more sensitive? Well, of course some jackass was going to use it to record you against your will, jackasses have been around and will be around.

    The government specifically using and developing new technologies and techniques for spying on its own citizens? THAT was something to worry about... 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Fountainhead, Anthem...

    My great grandmother was interrogated by the SS for 12 hours on a rumor that she was a sympathizer to the bank president who had been turned in on suspicion of not being a good member of "the party" which later turned out to be entirely false and propogated by the local priest who was a toady to the Nazis and coveted the man's house. His reward for the "information" was of course the house but my great grandmother lost some of her good standing in the community and the president "disappeared".

    Privacy matters to my family even if we haven't done anything illegal.
  • by Nqdiddles ( 805995 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:08AM (#14864278) Homepage
    the U.S. has always welcomed me back with open arms

    You're lucky you're "a citizen" then. The rest of the world has to be careful of even their facial expressions when they visit your country.
    Which is quite sad really. I attended high school and college over there but, thanks to the extremely suspicious treatment visitors are receiving (Yes, I've heard the first-hand accounts), I won't be paying a visit to my Alma Mater.
    Once more, as Benjamin Franklin said: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
  • by guitaristx ( 791223 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:15AM (#14864316) Journal
    In other words, not a good example to support your argument.

    Why's that? I've never had my driver's license suspended because a non-illegal activity I performed behind the wheel of a vehicle was "suspicious". I've never had my automobile confiscated indefinitely because some terrorist somewhere used the same type of vehicle. Freezing accounts because of large transfers is baloney, and ought to be illegal.
  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by webweave ( 94683 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:18AM (#14864327)
    Unless the real reason for doing all this is to keep an eye on you!

    Bin Laden belongs to one of the richest families of a country (Kingdom actually) that refused to help with the investigation of the money trail or the people involved in 9/11. Westeners don't realise how most of the world believes in family first and above all. I don't think he is pennyless and hiding in the snow covered mountains at all, I believe if he is anywhere it is in some deluxe private hospital, likely in Jeddah, and possibly in the exact same private hospital room that the former dictatorial leader of Uganda, Adi Amine occupied for years.

    The rich Saudi's got pretty good treatment on the days after the attacks and the whole Kingdom has pretty much been given a pass, but common Americans like our retired Texas schoolteacher... (From the article) 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.

    And this is the most worrisome part of the story that you have a few more items to add to the growing list of reasons why you are less safe and less free now.

    1. Innocent peoples money is being locked away for the most stupid reasons.
    2. You are being watched by big brother.
  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:21AM (#14864348)
    I figure I paid about $65 in extra interest charges over the 2 week hold period. But there are strict regulations on credit card payments. I recall reading regulations that they have to credit your account as of the postmarked date, if you send a check by mail, although they don't have to release your credit limit until they're sure the check cleared. This is to prevent them from grabbing more interest by kiting your check, or from zinging you with extra late fees while they hold your payment an arbitrary time. It seems to me the CC company violated this regulation in my case.
  • Re:My experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rwven ( 663186 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:36AM (#14864402)
    What's wrong with this story is that I had a $6800 balance on a visa that i paid the minimum on monthly. I then paid the entire account off (~$6775) in one feel swoop and no one was "alerted" to it at all...

    I've done this twice in as many years.

    I'm suspicious of these claims.
  • Re:My experience (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:02AM (#14864500) Homepage
    Am I the oddball that gets away with it then? Here I am, 71 years old, retired, as is the wife, living on SS and Teachers Retirement. We're not social climbers that have to have a new caddy every year or anything like that. The house is paid off so we are 'stable'.

    But when our 97 caravan with 125k on it started its inevitable slide into the cesspool of 500 dollar fixits, like the whole dash insert was going dead for the 3rd time, the heater blower only worked when it wanted to & well, you get the picture. Electrically, the wiring was all corroded and going to hell in a handbasket, it was sending me telegrams in escense.

    We didn't really need that van anymore since the missus quit teaching music, and my own 88 nissan 4wd is slowly rusting in two & not worth much for a tradein. I'll get a few more miles out of it yet, I mean its only got 206k on it now, just broken in for one of the 3L V6's with an auto tranny behind it. Neither was the van although it was otherwise showroom bodywise and the engine wasn't using or leaking any oil & could still 'light them up' if you needed to get out of the way.

    But I did need a bigger 4wd to haul construction materials as I'm going to redo a rotting out carport this summer, along with the cement floor under it thats slowly sinking. I did the retaining wall around it, hauling sakcrete in a ton at a time with the nissan over the last 2 years. Keeps me out of the bars that way. :-)

    But why a 4wd? Well, this IS West Virginia folks, where a higher percentage of people drive 4wd's than any other state in the union because our hills are right up in your face, personal hills. If you need to go without waiting for the roads to clear, you drive a 4wd, its that simple.

    Shopping around I found a 99 GMC KingCab 3 door with 59k miles on it, the usual small V8, auto, 4wd, new BIG rubber, yadda yadda, showroom condition & we haggled around to where I wrote a check for a bit over $15k getting an extended warranty & a couple other things thrown in. One of them 'pewter' paint jobs theres at least a million of running around, or is in my neck of these hills.

    AFAIK, that did not raise any red flags. If it had made trouble, I know the phone numbers of my senator and my reps and I have the freedom plan. Somewhat akin to saying I've got a shotgun and a shovel, any questions?

    It may not be a 40mpg econobox, but I've loaded it up with an extra 500+ lbs and made a trip to western NY state already, getting 20 mpg at the speed limits, not too shabby for a bigger rig IMO.

    Thats 5mpg better than the much smaller nissan pickup gets FWIW. And 2 to 3 mpg better than the van with its 3.6L v6 ever got.

    You could say I'm a redneck, but I'm an import of only 22 years duration here in WV. Its a great place to live, retire, and eventually die in, really.

    Cheers, Gene
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by penix1 ( 722987 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:21AM (#14864558) Homepage
    Howdy from a fellow West Virginian! I do know about WV and 4WD (since I own one too). But to keep this ontopic....

    "AFAIK, that did not raise any red flags. If it had made trouble, I know the phone numbers of my senator and my reps and I have the freedom plan. Somewhat akin to saying I've got a shotgun and a shovel, any questions?"

    That doesn't mean you weren't reported. All it means is that nothing came up to require further investigation. I used to work for DHS (FEMA before that and now I work with the State) and can verify that the "super spooks" in the law enforcement part of DHS are paranoid to the point of needing good drugs. You were checked but nothing tripped the "this is someone to watch" flags. What tripped it for this couple was the fact that it was a credit card they were paying and the way they paid it was "abnormal". What I want to see reported (but we will never know) is what ELSE tripped the further investigation. It isn't just one thing like this but usually a string of things out of the ordinary.

  • by mrrock ( 947287 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:51AM (#14864657)
    These things are really bipartisan with 9/11 just advancing what would have slowly occurred over the next 20 years to occur within just a few. Prior to 9/11 and during the 90s they used things like "It is for the children", to pass laws like these. For example during the Clinton years we had the bipartisan "1996 Welfare Reform Act". What most Americans do not realize that Act created the single most invasion of every Americans privacy in history. (enacted long before 9/11). Due to the Welfare Reform Act every employer is required to report their employees (or face fines) to the new hires database. The new hires database is used to track where Americans citizens are working at all times in case they ever father or mother a child. Therefore the used for the purpose of locating you for lifestyle child support collection.
  • by a.d.trick ( 894813 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:06AM (#14864710) Homepage

    Just replace Anti-Soviet and Counter-Revolutionary with the word Terrorist and you'll get something that is uncannily similar to this:

    ASA - Anti-Soviet Agitation.
    KRD - Counter-Revolutionary Activity.
    KRTD - Counter-Revolutionary Trotskyite Activity (And that T made the life of a zek in camp much harder.)
    PSh - Suspicion of Espionage (Espionage that went beyond the bounds of suspicion was handed over to a tribunal.)
    SVPSh - Contacts leading (!) to Suspicion of Espionage.
    KRM - Counter-Revolutionary Thought.
    VAS - Dissemination of Anti-Soviet Sentiments.
    SOE - Socially Dangerous Element.
    SVE - Socially Harmful Element.
    PD - Criminal Activity (a favourite accusation against former camp inmates if there was nothing else to be used against them)
    Chs - Member of a Family (of a person convicted under one of the foregoing "letter" categories)

    * n.b. the abbreviations may not match up with the descriptions because they are acronyms for russian words.

    The above list was taken from Solzhenitsyn's study on the Gulag. They were criminal codes [cyberussr.com] (mainly Article 58 [wikipedia.org]) used by the soviets as reasons to send people the off to the Gulag. Note that the first two (ASA [wikipedia.org] and KRD) were used very liberally, for example, some engineers were warning that a particular railway system was not going to work. They were slammed with KRD and tossed in the Gulag. Later on the system failed as they had warned. They were brought out to fix it but put back as soon in when it was done.

  • Re:My experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:45AM (#14864818) Homepage
    Welcome fellow West Virginian, but you're new here I take it, any topic is fair game on /. :-)

    I'll have to plead a certain amount of curiosity over the way they handled it. As a semi-retired technical person, I occasionally get shipped out of state to go 'put out fires' so to speak, and which pays me pretty well. But when I'm out doing those things, I may be running on my credit card for a couple of months at a time, paying it off when I get back & settled up for expenses etc. That can run to several thou and has, but I always call the card folks & let them know at least a rough idea of how long, where I'll be, and a swag on the how much. As far as I know, no flags were ever raised to the point that a deposit was held more than overnight. And I paid it as soon as I knew the totals. Interest-wise, I carry only one card, and negotiated a rate some would kill to get years ago.

    But, and this I fail to understand at all, is whyinhell did they ever let a 23% penny's card get THAT far behind. Thats fscking financial stupidity at its worst if they had the money to pay it off. I've dealt with penny's over their acceptance of a non-penny's card with a 40k line of credit on it, the bitch was gonna keep the card because it wasn't signed. It had been once, nearly 4 years back from that day, but wore off. I blew up loud enough they heard me all over the store and my permitted 38 was 5 seconds from coming out before she decided she'd give me back the card. I was gonna put about a $290 suit on it, but you know the rest of that story & I've only been back in penny's once since then, to check out an adv in the paper, but of course it was that old bait and switch at work again, they didn't have it, and never did have it. Jerks, they'll go away just like monkey ward did ten years ago now.

    We used to have a montgomery ward here, but thats all they ever did the last 5 or 6 years of their existance, was bait & switch. 15 years ago I needed a water heater & they had a good deal in the paper. But when I got there later that day, adv in hand, they only had the floor model & it wasn't for sale under any conditions as "it was the show model, but we've got this other one with the same 40 gallons and warranty for only $185 more". Sure... I went down to Ace Hdwe and got the one I wanted for a tenner more than the wards paper price. After a while you get the message & they went bust for wholely justifiable reasons. You simply cannot treat people like that if you want their business.

    Yeah, that much on a 23% card is unconsiously stupid in the first place.
    Ignorance can usually be fixed by education, but stupidity is for a lifetime I do believe. I give you that couple as evidence.

    I'm on I-79, about a hundred north of star city, whats your 20?

    Cheers, Gene
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:47AM (#14864826)

    I call bullshit on that. What do you mean until recently? Because Croatian didn't even exist as a independent country up until 1994, when the Croatians split from the former Yugoslavia.

    I've been in Croatia around 10-15 times since then, just two years after the war the first time, and I had absolutely no problems.

    Did I also mention that Croatia is a popular holiday destination in Europe? They'd be stupid to make travel hard!
  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:49AM (#14864830) Homepage Journal
    Why is it not an *essential* liberty that I have some privacy in my financial transactions? It's not as if financial transactions are some minut, inconsequential portion of our lives. How do we tell which liberties are essential and which aren't? Shall that be determined by which ones the current administration wants to take away from us? Or are we simply willing to give them all up, one by one, in the vague but ultimately futile hope that maybe it might make us a bit safer?

    Exactly which of the Powers of Congress enumerated in the Constitution authorizes the government to mandate that credit card companies divulge "suspicious" transactions to the government?

  • by sTalking_Goat ( 670565 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:01AM (#14864861) Homepage
    About 2 years ago Amex called me up and offered an increase in my credit line to 10,000, from 2000. I worked in retail at the time making less than $10 and hour. I said no thanks,how about lowering my APR. The guy tells me he can't offer me that. What a country.
  • by MadMidnightBomber ( 894759 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:10AM (#14864879)
    Obviously you haven't been doing much traveling. Check out Cuba, Nicaragua, Israel, Croatia (until recently), etc. No matter where I've been the U.S. has always welcomed me back with open arms compared to some of the places I've traveled.

    Try not being USAian. Hanoi airport is friendlier than LAX.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:07AM (#14865012)
    Perhaps Bin Laden had nothing to do with 9/11? This is quite the opposite of what most everyone seems to assume, but when the FBI's suspected suicidal hijackers start turning up alive after 9/11, I think we have to question their whole case:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/15591 51.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    And that is hardly the end of the problems with the official story of 9/11. There are plenty of sites that have raised legitimate issues with regards to the nature of the WTC building collapses (3 buildings suffered complete, symmetric collapses that resembled controlled demolitions) and the "failure" of the air-intercept system.

    While the above may seem to be off-topic, consider what has been justified on the basis of the official story. Shouldn't we be a little more sceptical of this version of events, as it is often the justification for so much that goes on?
  • by Barlo_Mung_42 ( 411228 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:07AM (#14865013) Homepage
    "If the government becomes capable of making it impossible to organize an armed revolt the Constitution has pretty much failed."

    Too late than by a long shot. There is no way an organized armed revolt would even come close to success. The second amendment doesn't allow me to own a fully loaded stealth bomber. Even then it wouldn't be nearly enough. The second amendment out lived it's intended usefulness a long time ago.
  • Re:Ex Post Facto (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SillyNickName4me ( 760022 ) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:26AM (#14865053) Homepage
    Laws can't be created ex post facto in the US.

    1972 copyright extention act?

    Obviously, you can at least change laws retroactively with enough money.
  • by Alkind ( 449960 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:54AM (#14865096)
    Isn't this just the bank's scaring policy to extend the debt period so the interest payments continue ? I understand the security aspect but I also understand that the bank may use that excuse for their own benefits. You might pay back next time half the sum. The other way around: if you are a terrorist is it easier to get a loan than to pay it off ? Must be cheaper if the terrorist act is a one way ticket to the next skyscraper.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:21AM (#14865155) Homepage
    "It's effectively illegal to leave your house without a government issued ID anymore. A friend of mine (a republican no less) was riding her bike during the 2004 RNC in New York City. She wasn't part of, or even close to the protests, but she looks "weird" she's young, she's not white, and she has tatoos. She ran a stopsign on her bike (pretty much standard practice for cyclists at 4-way stops) and got stopped by a cop. He would have let her go, but she didn't have an ID on her. As a result, she spent 18 hours sitting on a hard cement floor with her hands plastic-tied behind her, with no access to food, water, or legal counsel.

    She never got her bike back, and her suit against the NYPD was thrown out of court, as apparently, they were acting 100% within the Patriot act."

    lemme guess - land of the free right? not that the UK is much better.
  • Re:No problem here (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:16AM (#14865379)
    You're lucky your bank waited till the five figure point to harass you.

    It's been my experience that banks like to harass me in the four figure range.

    Bought a car. Used, private owner, but he needed it out of his garage and I got a cheaper price because I offered to make it quick. Renovating, he'd have to pull down a section of fence to park it in his back yard and then again to get it out.

    So I arrange with a relative to help me out later in the day, and drive out to my bank. "Hi, here's my slip." "Oh, this will take a minute sir." Teller disappears. Manager appears. "Just need to ask you some routine questions about the transaction, sir. Why are you withdrawing such a large amount of money?" "It's only three grand." "Well, we have to report certain types of transactions, you see. What are you planning on doing with the money?" "Spending it. I have three times that in the account, what's the problem?" "Oh, no problem sir. Would you like it as a money order, or as a cashier's check? They're free to you as a customer." "Naw. Just give me a couple fifties and the rest in hundreds."

    Back and forth we go. I tell him I'm buying a car. He wants to know what kind. I ask if he remembers "Get Smart". Half hour later, after I antagonize him further by asking him if he has his notes ready and upping the amount $200, I have my money.

    Year later, same bank. Withdrew $500 for computer components with my ATM card, decided after doing it I wasn't done spending. Saw a used server on my first visit, decided to splurge and go back for it. Hit the bank. "Hi, need to withdraw $1200. Actually, make it $1250. Your ATM doesn't like me any more, by the way." "Problem with your card, sir?" "Oh, I took out $500 earlier. It wasn't enough. I need another $1200, and since your ATM won't like me till tomorrow I'll make it $1250 so I won't have to be declined when I try to go for gas and smokes later" Teller wanders away, manager appears.

    "What are you buying?" "Ultra. Last years model." "What?" "It's a computer." "Oh. If you purchase it with your Bank VISA, you automatically gain.." "It's used." "Why are you buying a used computer thing?" "Because if I call Sun today and order one, they'll want ten times that." "Call who Sunday to order one?"

    Half hour later, I have my money and my debit card supposedly works.

    Course, then I find out the shop, who had always insisted on cash were more than happy to bill it to me at the end of the month. I did it, and tacked on a tape drive. They were used to selling large quantities, and they sold to me only as a courtesy because my employer did a lot of business with them. Easier to log in $200 to Cash Customer than all the accounting papertrail.

    Bank was not amused when I redeposited $1250 the next morning.
  • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShadowBot ( 908773 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:20AM (#14865389) Journal
    I used to work in a money transfer company in th Uk and I know that any transfer above a certain amount has to be reported.

    That part is straight forward, however, any customer who acts is a way which can be considered as suspicious also has to be reported.

    What's suspicious, oh all sorts of things, there's a long list of actions which could be considered as possibly suspicious and the final things on the list is, of course, "Any other actions which could be considered suspicious". With a video showing a person who is acting nervous while looking as if he is trying to decide whether or not to transfer some money as a good example.

    Keep in mind that not reporting any of these cases is considered a crime, for which the company could be heavily fined or even closed down and it's managers jailed. This of course results in the company reporting as many people as possible in order to escape from the bad side of this ill-defined law. Of course the Customs and Excise commision hardly ever follows up on any of these reports, but it does mean that if at some point some one decides to get you for money laundering, there are probably already more than enough reports made by nervous bankers to put you away for quite a while.

  • by lowell ( 66406 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:29AM (#14865410)
    except maybe by your own elected officials. Someone else already said this but I would rather die at the hands of terrorist than to be oppressed by and goverment that was supposedly elected by the people. Also most people are missing the point, AND, taking on this Patriot Act mentality. I heard a fellow say that he didnt mind if the goverment listened to his phone calls and emails because he had nothing to hide. There are so many people out there that think this way. People that have been conditioned to think that they dont need rights of privacy because they have nothing to hide. These same people also vote:(

    These SON OF BITCHES in D.C. took 9/11 and ran with it. And its only the beginning and it doesnt matter who you vote for. They are all part of the same fraternity, Politicians, any one who wants that job doesnt deserve it. It is getting harder and harder to use cash, I have had problems paying rent and cellphone bills with cash in the past. Doesnt prosecuting, or even scutinizing, someone for paying off there debt in a timely fashion send a very clear and frightening message about the direction that the United Stated of Amerika has already taken. I dont really feel that paying larger sums than normal for a dept should be of interest to someone with the power and fear of terror to "CREATE" new criminals, citezens of this once fine country the USA, not foriegn terrorist. Legal residents of this country are now under attack by the very laws that were supposed to be enacted as a knee jerk reaction to TERRORISM.

    Wake up. Its only going to get more interesting before its gets better. If that is even possible now.
  • by raider_red ( 156642 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:06AM (#14865884) Journal
    Okay, this is scary. This week, I sold about 100 shares of company stock in order to pay off my American Distress card, and make a double payment on my car loan. Does this mean I should expect a call from DHS sometime soon?

    It seems a bit scary that we're now monitoring things this closely. We have abilities that Orwell couldn't have imagined, and probably would have left him shaking in a cold sweat if he had know about them. Now it seems that exercising some common financial sense can bring you to the awareness of these people. Also, it seems that if they're looking at every little thing like this, the signal to noise ratio of the information they have to sort through is so low that they'll never be able to spot any real terrorist activity.
  • by ddig83 ( 868776 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:41AM (#14866112)
    I work for a credit card company, and you're very wrong. It is not good business to lend to people who can't pay it back, for the following reasons:

    1. Once the customer falls below a certain delinquency level we must write-off the debt. Meaning, we can no longer count their account as part of our A/R or their interest as profit. That's bad. At this point we just try to get whatever we can, "You can only pay $5? You owe us $5,000! Ok, whatever, put it in the mail and we're square."

    2. The customer declares bankruptcy. See number 1, except we don't get the $5.

    3. Delinquent accounts cost us additional variable cost. When we collect, it's not free money. We have to hire collections people, build their systems, pay for the dialer software, plus protect the customer's information since most collections people are temps. We don't make a lot of additional revenue from delinquency.

    Our favorite customer is someone who is 15 days delinquent, for all time. Not bad enough that we need to call, but we still get to charge fees and stuff.
  • by AntiCopyrightRadical ( 690243 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:07PM (#14867326)
    "The problem is that we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. You don't have to explain anything. Unless they have PROOF that you did something illegal, keep your mouth shut."

    IANAL, but under these laws, your cash is guilty untill proven innocent. You have to show that you got the money legitemately, or you won't get it back.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.