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Sunday, December 18, 2005
  The Winnipeg Free Press Online Edition
The Winnipeg Free Press Online Edition: "Privacy rules let con man drain funds"

In this piece the bank for an old woman, who appears to have been bilked for her life savings by a young 'opportunist', correctly claims that that they shouldn't presume to know better than the customer what they want to do with their money. One of the woman's sons claims that only an alert from a bank employee - which breached his mother's privacy - enabled them to detect the alleged fraud. This highlights the wrong issue at the bank. The customer's privacy does need to be protected, as does her fiscal well being. Protecting the customer's privacy is something that the bank has to do, and has the power to do. Making decisions about her money or who to disclose her transactions to violates both the customer's privacy and removes from her the possibility of acting on her own behalf - even to the extent of making bad decisions.

I have to say that I share the view that the bank has some culpability here. The pattern of withdrawals described is at least suspicious, and it seems to me should have alerted the bank to do something more concrete than the internal hand-wringing that was described. Had this been a case of identity theft, with money disappearing unbeknownst to the customer, clearly the bank would have some explaining to do. A notice to police of possible fraudulent activity would not, in my mind, constitute a privacy breach, and would enable the bank to protect all clients and not just those with diligent sons.

At this point, only civil or criminal proceedings present any hope, and if the 'handy man' of the story claims that the money given was given freely, then this just might unfortunately be the end of the story

Caveat emptor!

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