SIKESTON -- Financial institution employees will be sure and match faces with names and numbers next week as they officially begin their compliance with a section of the U.S. Patriot Act -- an attempt enacted after 9/11 to thwart money channeling for terrorism in the United States.
"This is serious business," said Keith Kirk, training manager of The First National Bank. "It's not a rap on the knuckles and walk on. We just ask our treasured customers to be patient and bear with us."
Kirk spent last week and this week instructing The First National Bank employees on what the act is, why it is and how it will affect their process and procedures.
"We want to be a leader in making sure our customers understand this is coming down the road. This is a mandatory issue and that it should be a one-time event," Kirk said.
Beginning Oct. 1, the federal law, specifically Section 326, establishes minimum procedures for identification verification for all new accounts within a financial institution, such as banks, mutual funds, savings and loan associations, credit unions, etc.
"With what has transpired from Sept. 11, the Patriot Act will help us fight the money laundering activities of terrorism," explained Robin Pace, assistant vice president of U.S. Bank.
All new accounts after Wednesday must include name, street address (not P.O. Box), tax identification such as a Social Security number and birth date for each person listed on the account.
"It's to help us learn about each person who comes in to open an account," Pace explained.
Most employees of financial institutions already obtain the same information that will be required, Pace admitted.
"Before the Patriot Act, we would only get this information from a brand new customer -- but now even a person who has been banking with us for 50 years decides to open a new account, they must provide us with a form of identification," Pace said.
New account holders must provide two primary sources of ID that are sanctioned, Kirk explained. A driver's license, Social Security card or passport are valid items if they don't have a state-sanctioned ID card, and non-U.S. residents may use their visa or passport. A worker ID card, or green card, would suffice, too, Kirk added.
If a person's Social Security number isn't on their driver's license then they must have both their social security card and driver's license for proof of identification, explained Kim Wheeler, marketing assistant at First Security State Bank. Wheeler said they've been recording this information and keeping photocopies of identification long before the Patriot Act.
"At this point it's somewhat transparent because it's so new," said Alliance Bank President Michael Pobst about the law. "We are taking necessary steps to assist with the assurance to reduce any activities."
There's a lot of responsibility by personal bankers to follow through with the act, Pace said.
"We've been lenient in the past and customers have gotten in the habit of not having to present the identification or information, but now it's a necessity. It's a matter of re-educating the public," Pace said.
Since US Bank has already implemented the new law in their policy, they've also had the chance to annoy some of their customers. A couple of people have gotten a little frustrated because the bank needed their IDs to photocopy and the customers didn't have them with them.
"But once we explain it's a federal law and it's for everyone's protection, they're OK with it," Pace said.
If someone refuses to comply with the Patriot Act, Pace said there are different reports bank personnel can fill out, such as an Internal Suspicious Activity report. Fines may also be given for those who don't comply with the act.
"What we are doing is ensuring that the person sitting in front of us is who they say they are with the barrier of proof being these types of governmental IDs," Kirk explained.
And so far there haven't been any problems with any of the customers' willingness to prove their identities, Kirk said.
"But you'd be quite surprised how many people lost their Social Security cards 20 years ago and never bothered to get them remade," Kirk said. "I suspect the Social Security office has been fairly busy the last couple weeks."
Visit the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Web site at www.occ.treas.gov for more information on the Patriot Act.