That is, if you are poor enough.

Institutions like Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo say that tapping into the vast repositories of information helps them weed out risky customers and combat fraud — a mounting threat for banks.

But consumer advocates and state authorities say the use of the databases disproportionately affects lower-income Americans, who tend to live paycheck to paycheck, making them more likely to incur negative marks after relatively minor banking missteps like overdrawing accounts, amassing fees or bouncing checks.

When the databases were created more than 20 years ago, they were intended to help banks guard against serial fraud artists, like those accused of writing bogus checks. Since then, though, the databases have ensnared millions of low-income Americans, according to interviews with financial counselors, consumer lawyers and more than two dozen low-income people in California, Illinois, Florida, New York and Washington….

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans are being shut out for relatively small mistakes,” Mr. Mintz said.

As a result, many have no choice but to turn to costly fringe operations to cash checks, pay bills and wire money. Saving for the future, financial counselors say, can be especially difficult.

Over a Million Are Denied Bank Accounts for Past Errors [DealBook]

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Comments (4)

  1. Posted by Anthony's Weiner | August 1, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    maybe, if these people want to be using a bank, they shouldn't be doing things like overdrawing accounts, amassing fees or bouncing checks? it's called being a responsible adult.

  2. Posted by DanKabir | August 1, 2013 at 3:57 PM


  3. Posted by Yerfackingmammy | August 1, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    Dear Model Responsible Adult: you a have date Karma.

  4. Posted by SVfour | August 15, 2013 at 6:28 AM

    This can only lead to people look for alternative ways to bank! Don't they see that they are simply losing customers? Customers they prob. don't lose money on necessarily…