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.”