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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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  • My experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:33PM (#14863417) Journal
    This isn't surprising. I work for a regional bank. Every employee is required to undergo training to know "what to look for". Doesn't matter if you are a teller, or a computer help desk operator. Anything over a certain dollar limit must be reported. As time goes on, the threshold has lowered. Pay off your house early? Gets reported. Large deposit? gets recorded. And anything overseas gets more scrutiny than J-Lo's panty lines.

    The training creeped me out. the uber-patriotic person assigned to train our group was so into it. 3/4 of our group thought it was great... bringing down meth dealers who weren't smart enough to structure their money better. In fact, however, structuring is a crime as well... Go just below the radar one too many times, and you can be charged, eevn if there is no illegal activity behind the generation of money.

    And, I would be wise to post AC (I won't, so this message might get more credibility) as advising someone how to avoid setting off the bells and whistles is a crime too.

    We don't live in 1984, but we might be at 1983...
    • 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.

    • 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: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.
    • 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.

  • ??? WTF (Score:4, Funny)

    by raydobbs ( 99133 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:35PM (#14863427) Homepage Journal
    So....it's a sign of impending terrorism to decide to pay down your debt? Smooth move, guys. Wouldn't suicide terrorists get a card, and max it out - knowing that they will never have to pay it off?
  • 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.
    • by Krazy Nemesis ( 795036 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:38PM (#14863856)
      The requirements for entering the US are so ridiculously more complex than any other country I've visited.
      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.
      • I call Bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

        by wass ( 72082 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:33AM (#14864597)
        Obviously you haven't been doing much traveling. Check out Cuba...No matter where I've been the U.S. has always welcomed me back with open arms

        I'm assuming from the way you worded your post you're a US citizen. If you're not a citizen, well, the following only really applies to citizens and you can read about how the US so warmly treats its citizens that travel there.

        The US does NOT welcome you back from a trip to Cuba with welcome arms unless you either have a license to travel there from OFAC, or if you went there quietly and never mentioned it to immigration.

        If you go to Cuba without a license (eg to visit your dying grandfather), and are honest enough to tell immigration about it when you come back into the USA, you get a big Illegal CUBA stamp on your passport, and then get a friendly threatening letter from OFAC a few months down the line. Sometimes they'll 'nicely' let the problem disappear for a $10,000 fine. That's a nice pair of welcoming open arms there, pal.

        And the open arms aren't necessarily guaranteed even if your travel to cuba is licensed. I've travelled to Cuba twice, both time perfectly legally as licensed with OFAC. One of those times we first flew to Canada, then to Cuba. Believe it or not that was the easier way to go. The more difficult way involved flying to Miami first, and then dealing with the absolute worst set of red tape I've ever dealt with in any travel. If going out wasn't bad enough, coming back through Miami was absolutely horrible, when my girlfriend and I didn't join in the immigration official's anti-communist tirade, he sent us and our luggage to be hand-inspected for evidence of illegal farm visits. Again, nice open arms there.

        And to anyone reading this, if you are issued a license to go to Cuba, think seriously about going through Canada (or Mexico) first, instead of flying through Miami, it will really make your life much easier.

      • by Biotech9 ( 704202 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:27AM (#14865054) Homepage

        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.

        Just think about what you've written. You're saying the US is not so bad, not compared to Cuba, Nicaragua, Croatia, Israel. If you're trying to say that the US is not such a fortress state and in doing so favourably compare it to countries like Cuba or Nicaragua, or countries undergoing as much *real* terrorism as Israel, or countries with such recent mass-conflicts such as Croatia, then you're not doing a very favourable comparison.

  • by Derling Whirvish ( 636322 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:36PM (#14863435) Journal
    Quoting from Capitol Hill Blue is like quoting from the Weekly World News. It's reputation for accuracy is at about the same level. I'm surprised that it was not bat boy that had the run-in with the law.

    Is there another source for this information? Quoting from CHB tells us more about the submitter and the submitter's reading habits than anything factual about the story.

  • by webweave ( 94683 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:36PM (#14863437)
    And Bin Laden is still free.

    Isin't that funny you can be freer in Afghanistan than in the US.
  • by slashname3 ( 739398 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:38PM (#14863447)
    Everyone on /. send me a dollar. I will apply it to one of my credit cards and then we will see how quickly the FBI shows up. I don't mind taking the hit. So as soon as I collect a dollar from everyone I will make the payment. Not a problem. Glad to do it. It's all for the experiment.
  • Sickening (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dukeofshadows ( 607689 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:41PM (#14863467) Journal
    This article is sickening. I understand that there is a need for watching large amounts of money that trade hands, but c'mon, we're now starting to scrutinize people who work to pay off their debts? If they're tracking us enough that they know on average how much we pay on credit cards per month, you'd think that the (insert government/corporate monicker here) would have an idea that people would like to get out of high-interest credit cards.

    Personally I think this sounds like a poorly-shrouded excuse for this credit card company (among others?) to scrutinize their customer's finances and try to intimidate them into staying in debt for longer periods of time. Sickening IMHO.
  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@NOSPAM.beau.org> 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.
  • Lousy Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:05PM (#14863655) Homepage
    The real story here is that the Department of Homeland Security is also responsible for credit fraud. One of the scams people pull is to steal a number, write a bogus check to the credit card company for that card (which guarantees the credit will be there), and then spend the amount that was written on the check before the check is cashed (and detected as bogus).

    The auto-trip flag for this is that when a large payment comes in that's many multiples of the payee's normal history, the credit card company will hold the payment until the check clears, which is within 10 days at the outside.

    In other words, this has nothing to do with terrorism, the fascist Bush regime, the gestapo at DHS, or any other Orwellian fantasy you can cook up. It's an arguably poor fraud prevention measure, nothing more.
    • Re:Lousy Article (Score:4, Informative)

      by Gloizen ( 914313 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:49PM (#14863903)
      I can't speak to DHS involvement, but I can personally attest to having my credit card frozen after making an unusually large payment. I wanted to buy my fiancee an engagement ring, but knew my line of credit was more than the cost of the ring. So, I called my credit card (issued by "Bank One First USA JP Morgan Chase" at last check) and asked if I can make a purchase over my credit limit by pre-paying the amount of the purchase. They said "Yes." So, I sent an electronic payment for $15k. The next day when trying to buy gas with the credit card, I found the card account frozen! This was the last thing I expected. I called the CC company and asked what was going on. They explained that due to the unusually large payment, they froze the account. (Why not just not give me access to the added funds until they can verify them?) It took me hours on the phone with the CC supervisor and a conference call to the bank from which I'd transferred in the money before they even unfroze my account. In the end, they _still_ wouldn't let me purchase the ring, regardless of the ample credit balance, because "the transaction amount is over your credit limit". (Apparently, the first CC customer service rep. that I had spoken with was wrong.)

      Anyway, I don't have a problem with this because it was the CC's decision, not the goverment's decision, to freeze my account. I let the market forces go to work... and stopped doing business with that credit card company (as soon as I got my money back).

  • by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:06PM (#14863658)
    It sneaks up on you. Many, many years ago, I opened a bank account; nobody asked what I did for a living, nobody asked where the money came from. Several years ago, my wife and I got a small safety deposit box for wedding/engagement ring storage, and the questions went on and on, esp. regarding my wife's self-employed status. Now I read a story about folks paying off a credit card debt that they could afford to pay off, and having their assets frozen. In a few years, will I go into the bank attempting to transfer funds between accounts, only to find everything frozen while they do a background check?

    I predict that wall safes and such are going to come back in style one of these days, and (esp. considering interest rates on accounts being negligible) bank accounts are going to be the place exclusively for money that's moving, not money that's being saved.
  • It happened to me. (Score:5, Informative)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:14PM (#14864024)
    This same thing happened to me. I inherited some money when my mom died, so a couple of months ago, I paid off my $7500 credit card balance, I mailed them a check for the full amount. About a week later, the payment still wasn't credited, so I called them and they said it takes 7 to 10 days for such a large check to clear. Yeah right. They told me to call back if it wasn't credited after 10 days. It wasn't, I called back again, they said if it wasn't credited after 14 days, call back again. It wasn't, I called back again. THIS time, I insisted they get a 3 way call with my bank to confirm the check had cleared. They credited my account during the phone call.
    But after reading the article about the guy who got turned in to Homeland Security for paying $6500 on his JCPenneys account, now it all makes sense. I saw another version of this news article, it said the "bank security act" requires credit card companies to report large payments. I can't find any such law, there's a Bank Security Act of 1974 but that far predates the existence of Homeland Security. The closest regulation I can find is the requirement to report cash transactions larger than $10k to the IRS.
    This is all so much bullshit I can't believe it. It's some sort of secret law, or more likely Homeland Security has duped banks into playing along with an imaginary law, just to get more data on totally innocent people. I am infuriated. I can't wait to see what happens when I try to board an airplane, now that DHS thinks I'm a terrorist, I bet I'm on the No Fly List.
  • by tector ( 959062 ) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:19PM (#14864048)
    Of course the feds are interested in the movement of money over x. And I see that there are plenty of readers eager to justify the monitoring of citizens all in the name of security.

    It is interesting that the justifications that existed when the level of x was thousands of dollars are now quoted when x is hundreds, when in theory, the effects of inflation should cause x to increase.

    In a few years, as technology, and data storage, and indexing allows, all transactions will be reported, catalogued, and analyzed, all in the name of security, and there will be plenty of readers that will be happy to step up to the plate and explain the justifications.

    The real reasons of course are about control of the masses, and to maintain authority by reminding all citizens that they are being watched and can be brought in to explain their actions and transactions at any time should their activity, be it financial or political opinion, raise an eyebrow in Washington, or the local town hall.

    While this particular example of credit card activity may or may not have occurred, the interesting point is that the assumption is that if someone's financial activity appears to change to a third party, the first party must explain their behaviour, as if there is a presumption of wrong doing.

    This is in opposition to the principals set forth in the Bill of Rights and the forth amendment:

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    Since there is no probable cause to believe that a person with $600 or some other arbitrary amount has acquired the funds through illicit mechanisms, requiring the person to provide documentary evidence is clearly an illegal search and seizure.

    This also may be a violation of the tenth amendment:

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people"

    Since the ability to keep tabs and monitor the general population is not expressly granted to the federal government by the constitution, such activity must be the domain of the states. This is why the feds now claim that this is part of the "war against terrorism" to create a federal interest in monitoring of ordinary citizens, just like the illegal wiretapping of ordinary citizens phoning back to the old country.

    The future is bleak, and the trends before us further demonstrate that these United States have continually moved from a democratic republic for the people, by the people, to a fascist state that operates in the interest of the new aristocracy, let's not forget that the most interesting of all financial transactions are the least scrutinized.

    Has any else noticed the huge transfer of wealth from public coffers to private hands..? (hint: it was more than 600 bucks).
  • 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 Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:16AM (#14864739) Homepage

    There weren't any cells in the U.S.
    They've only charged ten men in the entire gulag system they've built around the world. And those aren't exactly airtight cases.
    Over thirty men have died from "stress" during imprisonment and torture. None were charged.
    They've not arrested a single man who actually plotted 9/11. They've bodyguards, drivers, one guy who wore a wristwatch "similar to those worn by terrorists". The bulk of those picked up in Afghanistan were fingered by enemies of the fingered who also got a fat cash payoff for giving up "terrorists".

    The main reason is that the actual terrorists died in the planes. The second reason is that Bin Laden et al had a month to evacuate Afghanistan before we started bombing the poor bastards who had nothing to do with 9/11.

    So, no terrorists. We've suspended the constitution, created a Gestapo, and are building Prison America to keep ourselves safe. And we've nothing to show for it.

    bin Laden got what he wanted: the removal of the U.S. military bases from holy Saudi Arabian soil, and the provocation of the U.S. invading the middle east. He's really no more reason to hit us. Why bother? We've turned every muslim in the damned world against us. He got a lot for his money.

    But we've got exactly nothing.
    • 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 The Man ( 684 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:11AM (#14864882) Homepage
    Anyone who votes for a bill that would allow this is in violation of his or her constitutional duties. There's a word for that, and it's the only crime defined by the constitution itself. Well, we're constantly being told we're at war, and guess what? In wartime, treason is a capital crime. I'm deadly serious: any congressman or senator who voted for this should be immediately tried for treason, convicted automatically, and executed. It's time to quit fucking around and take back control of the government. Do you hear me, Congress? You deserve to be punished for this crime. You deserve to DIE. Voting you out is not enough; history has shown that people are stupid enough to vote for whoever puts his face on TV. Sending you to jail is not enough; that example has been made again and again to no effect. I'm sick of it. You'll have your due process, you'll have your day in court, and then you'll get a needle in the arm, which is exactly what you deserve for your profoundly unamerican, illegal, and immoral actions. You are beneath contempt. You are beneath hatred. You have forfeited the right to life by your infringements on the just, guaranteed rights of those you are sworn to serve. There can be no lower scum, no more pathetic, miserable human refuse. Only the Law, which unlike you I am compelled to respect, will save you from the cruel, hideous torture you've so richly earned.

    Think I'm extreme? What have your moderate views and voting choices done for us? They've gotten us here, that's what. Time for a change. Turn off the TV, forget about "compromise," and quit worrying about "wasting your vote." If what we have now isn't the result of wasted votes, I don't know what would be. Vote Libertarian. Vote independent. Run for office yourself. Ask your state to call for a constitutional convention. Won't do it? Ask yourself this: What would make you change the way you think, vote, and live if not the things you've seen, read, and heard about our government from reliable sources in the past 5 years? WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE PEOPLE YOU'RE VOTING FOR DO NOT SERVE YOUR INTERESTS?

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson