Your Life or Your Bank StatementsFebruary 20, 2013 | By: Sean Murray
“Um, I don’t feel comfortable sending them to you because they’re private.” One of the most interesting things I experienced as a broker and underwriter is the amount of times I heard merchants tell me their bank statements were too private to send in. I understand it’s not exactly the same thing as telling someone your phone number, but if you’re applying for a loan or intend to sell your future receivables, this doesn’t really cross the line as being too personal.
Let’s be honest here, there’s plenty of folks who get defensive over this simply because they’re overdrawn and they don’t want the lender to see it. I’ve heard every trick in the book, “the last 2 months statements are lost and my bank refuses to send me copies”, “I switched bank accounts yesterday and my old bank won’t send me my previous statements now”, or “I’ll send them over as soon as I have 100% final approval on the loan.” These excuses won’t work and they set off red flags with underwriters. Besides, if you lie about something during the application process and then proceed to sign a guarantee on the loan agreement that you’ve disclosed EVERYTHING, then you’ve already placed yourself in breach of contract or worse, you’ve committed fraud.
But on the flip side, just as many applicants are worried that submitting their bank statements could lead to identity theft. Maybe there is a slight chance it does, but probably only if you’re sending them to someone that already has all of your other identifying information like your social security number. That’s the “interesting” part I spoke of earlier because few people flinch when filling out their social security number on the application. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to induce worry in businesses that want money. What am I trying to say is that waiting until late in the application process to do research on the lender or broker is too late. You need to be 100% confident in the recipient of your personal information before you even fill out the preliminary application on the first day.
When it comes to identify theft, Your social security number, name, address, and date of birth is really all it takes for you to be fully compromised. The rebuttal on the bank statements is always “But I don’t want someone to know my bank account number because then they might try to take money out of it.” Really? Have you ever written a check to someone? Have you ever signed up for direct deposit? Have you ever seen a waste basket full of bank receipts next to an ATM machine? I hate to say it but your bank account information is already public and you probably give it out to people on a daily or weekly basis. Routing numbers are shouted from the rooftops and you can see that for yourself at routingnumbers.org. If someone is going to try to debit money out of your account, your bank statements aren’t really necessary. It’s sad, but it’s true. Financial institutions review and audit businesses that debit their customers, but sometimes bad guys slip through the cracks. Generally if an unauthorized debit does happen, you are not liable for the loss. According to FTC.gov:
Since December 31, 1995, a seller or telemarketer is required by law to obtain your verifiable authorization to obtain payment from your bank account. That means whoever takes your bank account information over the phone must have your express permission to debit your account, and must use one of three ways to get it. The person must tell you that money will be taken from your bank account. If you authorize payment of money from your bank account, they must then get your written authorization, tape record your authorization, or send you a written confirmation before debiting your bank account. If they tape record your authorization, they must disclose, and you must receive, the following information:
The date of the demand draft;
The amount of the draft(s);
The payor’s (who will receive your money) name;
The number of draft payments (if more than one);
A telephone number that you can call during normal business hours; and
The date that you are giving your oral authorization.
If a seller or telemarketer uses written confirmation to verify your authorization, they must give you all the information required for a tape recorded authorization and tell you in the confirmation notice the refund procedure you can use to dispute the accuracy of the confirmation and receive a refund.
In the event these rules are violated and a debit happens anyway, the FTC advises this:
If telemarketers cause money to be taken from your bank account without your knowledge or authorization, they have violated the law. If you receive a written confirmation notice that does not accurately represent your understanding of the sale, follow the refund procedures that should have been provided and request a refund of your money. If you do not receive a refund, it’s against the law. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately. Tell the bank that you did not okay the debit and that you want to prevent further debiting. You also should contact your state Attorney General. Depending on the timing and the circumstances, you may be able to get your money back.
It’s important that you know these rules, but it’s twice as important to do a background check on the financial service company before you send them ANYTHING. Your social security number is your crown jewel. Be smart about who you send it to. And as for your mysteriously missing January bank statement? There’s a pretty good chance your story about where it went or why it’s never coming back isn’t going to work. Good luck and safe funding!February 20, 2013
Sean Murray is the founder of deBanked, an 11-year veteran of the merchant cash advance industry, a casual Lending Club and Prosper note investor, the co-founder of Daily Funder, an alternative lending speaker, consultant, writer, and enthusiast. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter.