Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Consumers Vent about Banks' Privacy Practices

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Consumers Vent about Banks' Privacy Practices

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Consumers are up in arms over financial privacy and the practices of banks, judging from a sample of recent letters sent to the Treasury Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other agencies.

"I was utterly shocked to realize my own bank would provide my credit card number to what I feel are unethical, if not illegal, telemarketers," one consumer told the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a Treasury division which oversees nationally chartered banks. "The next day I went to the ... [bank] branch to cancel my card."

For the first time ever, the House voted overwhelmingly on July 1 to give people the right to block banks and other financial companies from sharing their personal data with outside firms, such as telemarketers. The lawmakers, who stayed up late to pass the measure on the eve of their Fourth of July recess, were tapping into an American nerve.

No comparable measure has cleared the Senate.

Copies of the letters were obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act. The names of consumers and their financial institutions were blacked out -- to protect their privacy, of course.

The letters weren't prompted by the congressional action; they arose from consumers' anger at their financial institutions.

Late last year, the government tried to institute a rule that would have required banks to track their customers' transaction patterns, the so-called "Know Your Customer" rule. …

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