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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On September 15, I did a review of Grant Hall's book, Privacy Crisis: Identity Theft Prevention Plan and Guide to Anonymous Living. This post is the second in a series of guest articles in which I feel readers will have interest. Grant's insight into financial institutions will open your eyes, and make you think before your next trip to the bank.

Bank of “Arrogance” and the Privacy Crisis
by Grant Hall

Whose money is it anyway?

Why do Americans have to jump through hoops and provide every conceivable piece of personal information known to computers to pseudo government agents, a.k.a. “bankers” in order to store their currency? Why is a prospective customer met with an “army” of resistance whenever telephone inquiries are made about the once simple procedure of opening a non-interest bearing checking account? And, why does it take three to five employees of a bank and thirty to sixty minutes to gain the information that was once accomplished through a three minute conversation with an entry level banking clerk?
Recent numbers of U.S. banks on the F.D.I.C. watch list increased to 117 in the second quarter of 2008 from 90 in the first quarter of 2008 (Ellis and Luhby, 2008) and in spite of the catastrophe looming, banks and bankers have not made efforts to boost customer satisfaction through better customer service in the opinion of this author and according to this author’s small-sample, empirical study conducted in August 2008.
The author spoke to twelve “bankers,” employed at various regional, money center and local banks and spent an average of thirty-seven minutes on each call during the month of August, 2008. An additional six banks were contacted that did not answer their telephones and these calls were routed to voice mail. Messages were not left for return calls by the author and this study is based on the twelve banks and “bankers” who were available for telephone calls during business hours in August, 2008.
Study results revealed that no first responders (clerks, tellers, assistant managers) could answer all questions asked by the author relating to opening a non-interest bearing checking account for a Trust of which the signer would be the Trustee. Note: Trust accounts are considered “personal” accounts by bankers according to the author’s experience.
Once supervisors or bank managers came to the telephone, the conversation continued with questions necessarily repeated from first responder contacts. Three of the twelve were able to answer all questions concerning the opening of the aforementioned “personal” bank account. A third telephone contact was necessary in six of the twelve telephone contacts. Three of the twelve contacts required a fourth or fifth person or advised having someone call the author back.
Based on the study results, it is clear that service has deteriorated to an unacceptable level at banks And, since banks neither know their business (requirements for opening a basic account) and do not offer acceptable customer service-based on this author’s study and his conclusions-an interpretation in part based on his opinion, why should anyone use them for storing their money?
All twelve banks mentioned said “no” when asked if they would cash a customer’s check if he/she did not have an account with the bank.
The conclusion is therefore drawn from this August, 2008 study that banks are not in the business of providing acceptable and good customer service. This is the opinion of this very experienced author and is based on this study and other studies. Further, employees who field questions by telephone (clerical, assistant mangers) –from numbers one to three who speak to prospective customers-do not know requirements for a basic “trust” checking account. This conclusion and the fact that bankers-executive and management do not know the source of their funds and cannot define the Federal Reserve Bank (Hall, 2006) may cause many customers to hesitate about opening a bank account for personal use.
As the author has explained in Privacy Crisis, there are other options besides commercial banks for storing cash.
Check cashing stores combined with the use of an anonymous safe deposit box will enable the privacy advocate to keep money anonymous-without the probems associated with banks and bankers. A useful resource for an anonymous safe deposit box is 24-7 Private Vaults and their web site is

Ellis, David and Luhby, Tami, 2008, Problem Bank List Keeps Growing,
Hall, Grant, Privacy Crisis: Identity Theft Prevention Plan and Guide to Anonymous Living, eBook, available at: 2006, James Clark King, LLC
Copyright: James Clark King, LLC, September 8, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008


I ran into a couple of things recently that deserve mention for readers with an urgent interest in protecting their privacy. The first is Grant Hall’s E-book, Privacy Crisis: Identity Theft Prevention Plan and Guide to Anonymous Living, 390 pages packed with a concept so different than most of today’s privacy advocates that it demands recognition. He asks the basic question of why we should have to give up all of our sensitive data just to survive at the existence level in the present-day financial world. That’s true! In order to conduct any business that requires a payment for merchandise or services, if you don’t have the cash in hand, you must reveal the family history to obtain credit. But Grant says there is a way to solve this problem by using cash, and he shows you how this can be done. I suggest you go to the link above and check out Privacy Crisis to see if this approach is for you. And look for an article soon by Grant Hall on this blog: Bank of “Arrogance” and the Privacy Crisis.

The second is a recent post, The Ultimate Guide to Internet Privacy Law: 100 Must-Read Resources, rich with information broken down into guides and articles designed to protect your online privacy. They are the latest privacy scams and security breaches from the news and blogs, authoritative information on online privacy law from academic and research sources, privacy rights organizations, government resources, and some great information for kids and teens. They were even kind enough to include The Dunning Letter in this group. I know about many of these sites, and can see that the collection was put together with some thought. Check out their site, and you can even leave comments if you have ideas on this subject.

We will probably never have enough available advice for protecting our privacy, since the trend in identity breaches just keeps on rising each year, and shows no real signs of receding. So my advice is to make the best of whatever you can find that is legitimate and authoritative.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Today marks the first of the guest articles from contributors whose specialties are in keeping with the philosophy of The Dunning Letter. Sergei Limberg has a history of advocating for consumers, as the following article illustrates.

Driving in Circles: Lemon Law and Extended Warranties

By Sergei Lemberg

For a long time now, Jack has done an enormous public service in the realm of consumer privacy and identity theft. Over at, my colleagues and I are working for consumers in a slightly different arena: lemon law.

All too often, consumers are victimized by car manufacturers when the automaker can’t or won’t fix a serious defect in a new car. We’re not talking about annoying problems like speakers that aren’t installed properly, but rather defects that make the vehicle unreliable or unsafe. Every state has what’s called a lemon law, meant to protect new car buyers from just these kinds of defects. Unfortunately, though, most people don’t understand their lemon law rights, or know how to go about preserving them.

Because each state’s lemon law is different, it’s easy for people to become confused. Generally speaking, though, most states cover new passenger vehicles that are intended for personal use. Typically, lemon laws dictate that, in order to be considered a “lemon,” a vehicle must have serious defects that occur within a certain time frame, such as during the first year or the first 12,000 miles – whichever comes first. There’s also a requirement that the vehicle has been taken in for a certain number of repairs (such as four times for the same problem) or has been out of service for a certain length of time (such as a cumulative total of 30 days). Often, there’s a requirement that the manufacturer has to be notified via certified mail and given one last opportunity to make the repairs. If the automaker can’t fix the problem, they’re required to give the consumer a refund or replacement vehicle.

This is the point where consumers need to make a lot of noise. Understandably, manufacturers don’t want to acknowledge that they have a lemon, and have legal teams that are dedicated to fighting lemon law claims. Often, they make people jump through hoops until the time limit for getting compensation expires, then walk away with smiles on their faces. If you think you have a lemon, you should contact a lemon law attorney after the second or third repair attempt. He or she can help guide you through the final steps that will legally establish your vehicle as a lemon. Because most lemon laws say that the manufacturer has to pay your attorney’s fees in a successful claim, representation shouldn’t cost you a dime.

But that’s only one of the ways that people are victimized in relation to their vehicles. The other is through extended warranty scams. The New York Times recently ran a great article on extended warranties, which basically said that about two-thirds of people end up paying more for the warranty than they save in costs associated with repairing their cars. It also pointed out that it’s best to avoid third-party extended warranties, as you’ll be out of luck if the company you purchase from goes out of business.

This issue of third-party warranties intersects with privacy issues, since extended car warranty companies buy lists of names and snooker them into buying meaningless warranties. Chances are, you’ve received pre-recorded calls, letters, or emails warning you that the warranty on your vehicle is about to run out and that you need to “act now” to protect yourself. Usually, the company bought your name from a list broker and is betting on your naivete to scam you into buying something you don’t need.

From a lemon law perspective, even legitimate extended warranties aren’t so great. They’re simply service contracts, so a manufacturer’s repeated failure to fix a problem is hardly ever actionable.

Sergei Lemberg, Esq., focuses his practice on Lemon Law, Consumer Fraud, Auto Warranty and Auto Injury litigation. He is licensed to practice in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. He can be reached at: 1-877-77-LEMON (1-877-775-3666)or e-mail