Archive for Friday, February 3, 2012

Lawrence teenager’s job comes with unexpected complications

Ellen Dalager, 15, is supposed to be compensated via a form of prepaid debit card for her work in a job program at Free State High School, but she has run into unanticipated obstacles.

Ellen Dalager, 15, is supposed to be compensated via a form of prepaid debit card for her work in a job program at Free State High School, but she has run into unanticipated obstacles.

February 3, 2012


When 15-year-old Ellen Dalagar landed a job washing towels through Free State High School, she had to prove she wasn’t laundering money.

But because of the Patriot Act, Dalager’s mother, Camille Dalager, said that’s exactly what the family has been doing the past week.

Ellen is a sophomore at Free State High School who has some mental and communication challenges related to health issues. This year, Dalager said her daughter was excited to start a work program through the school. Ellen said she was eager to use her earnings to purchase a phone.

Ellen received her first paycheck in the form of a prepaid debit card through US Bank. Her parents first encountered problems when attempting to get a temporary PIN code to access the account. It was on that first phone call to US Bank that they were told Ellen had been randomly selected to provide documents to prove her identity as part of the Patriot Act.

While Ellen could provide her birth certificate and Social Security card, Dalager said, she didn’t have a driver’s license or proof of address, which usually comes in bank statements and utility bills. The best the family could do was a school ID, which the bank couldn’t accept. And the bank also couldn’t accept her parent’s ID or proof of address.

The only solution, Dalager’s mother said, was to get a state-issued photo ID. That costs $22, which was hard to come by on the family’s budget. They took out a small temporary loan with the bank to cover it. They hope a state ID will help access the account.

“You did the work, you get paid,” Dalagar said. “All we want is (for Ellen) to be paid.”

Dean DeBuck, a spokesman from the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, which oversees banking provisions in the Patriot Act, didn’t answer direct questions on how the legislation applies to minors. However, he did refer to a 400-page Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering handbook.

According to that document, banks have to obtain a customer’s name, date of birth, address and an identification number, such as Social Security card, before they open a bank account. The handbook goes on to state a bank must verify enough of the information to “form a reasonable belief that it knows the true identity of the customer.”

Prepaid debit cards are a risk because they don’t leave a paper trail. According to the federal report, drug dealers have been known to load currency onto a prepaid card and send the card overseas to their drug suppliers.

Dalager is still trying to figure out why her daughter, a good, hard-working kid, was selected. She doesn’t fit the profile of a terrorist or drug dealer, her mom said.

“I’m just amazed that of all the 100,000 people they pick out that she was one of them,” Dalager said. “She is the most innocent person to get picked. Especially since you know there won’t be a whole lot on that debit card.”


GardenMomma 3 years, 10 months ago

Why isn't she getting paid by paper check? How can you see your deductions on a debit card? I would want to know how much is being withheld.

grammaddy 3 years, 10 months ago

They send the pay stub in the mail.Many jobs are doing this these days.

Ragingbear 3 years, 10 months ago

Cashing a paper check without a valid ID is even harder. I had a check once and it took me 3 weeks and about $50 to cash it.

luv2raft 3 years, 10 months ago

I agree with both GardenMomma and toe. It seems like it'd be really easy for the company to scam its employees this way!

Lisa Medsker 3 years, 10 months ago

Absolutely agree... Also, what about the I-9's that all jobs require you to fill out, proving address and employability? Isn't the bank kind of pulling a "double jeopardy" thing, since she proved what is being asked to GET the job, now she has to prove it again to access the pay?

littlexav 3 years, 10 months ago

Not really. The bank has its own regulations and federal laws to follow, and the penalties for violating the USAPATRIOT act are (unsurprisingly) pretty steep. Moreover (and not to be a total douche) double jeopardy is a specific legal term refering to being charged twice for the same crime using the same facts/circumstances. Hence, being twice put in jeopardy for the same actions. Doesn't really apply to a debit card. :-)

Lisa Medsker 3 years, 10 months ago

Ahh. That clears it up. Also, for clarification, I put "double jeopardy" in quotes for a reason. I knew it referred to a specific legal situation, but wasn't spot-on. However, doesn't it seem she has had to prove herself innocent of the same thing twice, even if it is for two different entities?

LogicMan 3 years, 10 months ago

LJW: It's unfortunate that you published a pic of a debit or credit card's face. I can read many of the numbers. I suggest you fuzz them immediately.

otto 3 years, 10 months ago

  • 1 All Giant monster mega banks ( as Clark Howard calls them ) suck --- I have not seen one national bank care about the customer at all - and i have dealt with many.

roggy 3 years, 10 months ago

Did you read the article? The bank (any bank) has to follow the regulations handed down from the government.

otto 3 years, 10 months ago

The handbook goes on to state a bank must verify enough of the information to “form a reasonable belief that it knows the true identity of the customer.” Roggy --- Did you read the article? Reasonable - It is a reasonable assumption that you didn't.

matahari 3 years, 10 months ago

I hate, hate hate (and that's a strong word that I rarely use) US Bank ! ! ! ! I have spent more endless hours with their inept emplyees than I care to recall . I advise, by word of mouth to everyone that I encounter, when the topic of banks arises, that U.S. Bank is a PITA.....I'll say it again because I recently, yesterday, got another piece if inept contact via USPS over a safety deposit box of mine that was drilled, because of their stupidity. I say it one more time. I will never ever have another account with U.S. Bank, ever!

Centerville 3 years, 10 months ago

Does the school district pay everyone with debit cards? What's the deal?

littlexav 3 years, 10 months ago

It saves them money. It's sad, but the banks make enough "interest" (even with intrabank rates at near-zero) on the money stored on the cards that they offer to do all the "behind the scenes" work on behalf of the employers. The employer saves money of issuing paper checks and the hassle of being responsible for the money on its books.

bmurph 3 years, 10 months ago

lots of places are going to direct deposit only it is cheeper for the companys and more reliable for the employees (supervisor is sick, waiting for the mail) most places if you don't have a checking account or savings account issue a debit card to deposit your paycheck into.

Deb Engstrom 3 years, 10 months ago

My son gets paid by a temp agency with a debit card. It's much more efficient when people don't earn large amounts of money. It's better for the company not to write checks for those small amounts. The problem here is the Patriot Act, not the employer or the employee.

madcow 3 years, 10 months ago

YEahhhh... you should blank out those numbers. The first ones are the easiest to guess.

Mike846 3 years, 10 months ago

This poor family's next headache is going to be identity theft. The first six digits of the card are the Issuer Identifier. All you have to do is look at any other prepaid card by the same issuer to know what those digits are. And the rest of the digits? Those were legible in the picture until it was blurred and updated a few minutes ago.

StirrrThePot 3 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, US Bank blows. Commerce Bank is bad too.

Haiku_Cuckoo 3 years, 10 months ago

Even if she had been paid with a check, she would need a state ID to cash the check. It's a shame they couldn't find a friend to loan them the money so they could avoid getting a bank loan for $22.

George_Braziller 3 years, 10 months ago

The story doesn't explain how she came to possess the card. Did her employer just hand it to her? Did she pick it up at the bank?

I wonder if the bank would have accepted the envelope as proof of address if she had given the card to the employer and had them mail it to her.

Hooligan_016 3 years, 10 months ago

My girlfriend held a brief position at a job where they were paid in this manner. She quit within 2 weeks and got a better job, but got this new card in the mail like a month later. Threw us off where it was coming from and who sent it.

What I really hate about this system is that it creates another middleman between the employer and employee. If there is a mistake, you have to take it up with the card company instead of payroll or HR.

Take_a_letter_Maria 3 years, 10 months ago

Accelapay cards, which is what she received, are just like the cards the state issues for unemployment compensation. The cards cannot be delivered to the employer, they must be sent directly to the end user's address so George's question is a valid one regarding proof of address.

As for knowing what you were paid and what was deducted, the employer produces a pay stub just as they would if Ellen had a bank account and used direct deposit.

These cards are actually much safer for both the employer and employee as well as more cost efficient for the employer.

I wish the Dalagers would have thought to ask some friends for the $22. I've had a couple of their kids in scouts in the past and would have gladly given them the money for the ID. It is probably a good idea for Ellen to have the ID anyway regardless of the reason for having to obtain it originally.

littlexav 3 years, 10 months ago

Safer? Maybe. There are a host of ages-old protections built into negotiable instruments (e.g. "checks") to protect you and hold the bank liable if your check is forged and the bank honors it. These don't apply to debit cards (although many banks may offer some degree of fraud protection). Also, you can't typically write a check out of these prepaid debit accounts, so if you want to buy something that isn't available in a store (like, you know, a "house") you're out of luck.

Take_a_letter_Maria 3 years, 10 months ago

She can withdraw cash from an ATM or get cash back from a POS purchase to pay for those things at, like, you know, a house, so you aren't really out of luck. Also, if she had a checking account already, the district could/would do a direct deposit to that instead of the pay card.

Another plus of the card in this particular case, if she loses the card the money isn't gone as long as she/Camille notifies the bank. The bank will re-issue with the remaining balance on the new card. If she received a check and cashed it, and then lost the cash it is gone completely.

Arana 3 years, 10 months ago

Another thing you can do is a cash advance. Most banks offer this service even if you are non account holder. You do need a legal form of ID for this and your name must be on the card. But as far as I know most small banks don't charge for this service.

iron_outlaw 3 years, 10 months ago

She should go open a checking account with another bank. Most banks offer a teen account and I'm sure her employer offers direct deposit. That makes sure no more of her gets tied up with US bank. She can still work I have getting her money off that card.

It is becoming more common for employers to pay by using debit cards and other paperless solutions. The employer is still required to provide detail of pay and deductions. I find it laughable that some of you actually see it as a way that an employer might rip you off. Also, to put it nicely, with the amount of environmentally conscious people we have in Lawrence, I would think a tree saving alternative such as prepaid debit cards would be completely embraced.

thebigspoon 3 years, 10 months ago

OK, totally off the present subject, but this is a prime example of how some voters can be denied voting privileges. It cost his kid's family $22 just to get a state ID. How many poor people, the voting bloc that needs so desperately to be heard through its votes, will be denied a ballot that counts simply because they can not afford an ID or evern get to the place where they can get the ID f they can afford it? As I said, a prime example of the way Brownback and his henchmen are putting roadblocks in front of Kansans who want to have their voices heard. Great job, Sam, and here's to your pending NON-reelection. This student will obviously find a way to better her life, but it will be no thanks to big business or to the State of Brownbackistan.

littlexav 3 years, 10 months ago

Yes you can. KDHE has an affidavit you can fill out to get a free birth certificate.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 10 months ago

Dead people that want to vote dont have $22 either.

Ceallach 3 years, 10 months ago

The sad part of this is that Ellen, a 15 year old girl, is caught up in it. She is fortunate to have her mother as an advocate. Ellen is a very sweet girl--and a great softball player :) I hope someone will offer the family free legal representation to settle this with as little stress to Ellen as possible.

Good luck, Camille!

StirrrThePot 3 years, 10 months ago

Thank you Patriot Act for keeping us safe while at the same time making the lives of many difficult. "It's for our own good!!"

A debit card, what a crappy way to pay an employee.

iron_outlaw 3 years, 10 months ago

What about a man named Richard who prefers to be called Dick? Is he too compensating for something?

appleaday 3 years, 10 months ago

Now I'm starting to understand Newt Gingrich's plan to have school children work as janitors. The state saves money because they can't use the credit cards they are issued. Brilliant!

nobodysbusiness 3 years, 10 months ago

While I agree that Ellen should be paid for her hard earned work, I'm extremely put off by the indication that the $22 is a hardship to the family. I know Kris and Camille and know that they work hard to provide their family with a nice home. This story is written as extreme grand-standing in order to gain sympathy for their family and try to make this newsworthy. The family needs neither need your money, or your sympathy. Once they get Ellen a state issued identification, she should easily be able to prove her legal legitimacy.

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