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Bank Receipt Security: Answer is Not Blowin' in the Wind 

Bank customers may want to stop leaving their ATM receipts at the machine, or even in the trash. New technology known as an Intelligent Depository Module prints out more detailed deposit records -- with a lot more personal information on them.

In recent weeks, receipts from deposits made without envelopes at Pittsburgh's 450 PNC ATMs have included a scan of the check itself. If you deposit a payroll check, for instance, your receipt could now include such information as your full name, home address, and the location where you work.

"That would scare me right down to my socks," says Jay Foley, executive director of the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit center advocating ways to prevent or deal with such thefts. "It sounds like a cute little convenience thing, but in the long run they're creating another problem."

The idea, says PNC spokesperson Patrick McMahon, is to reassure customers that their checks were indeed processed; previous receipts may not have done the trick, he adds. While National City reports it isn't yet using the scans, spokesperson Bill Eiler says the bank is evaluating the technology for possible future use. Other banks did not return calls for comment.

A simple name and address on a slip of paper is enough to make people vulnerable, says Foley. While many customers might not keep close track of such records, that information could allow fraudsters to "spear phish," or target someone for spam or fraud much more directly.

"I could call you up at work and say, 'I'm with the jury commission, you failed to show up last week,'" Foley says. "Yaddy yaddy boom, I've got your information. I now know which bank you're with, I call you up and say, 'There's a problem with your bank, gimme your account number.'" Foley calls the ATM technology "convenience at the price of security."

Mike Shirk, manager for ATM product marketing at Diebold, which makes PNC's ATM machines and developed the new technology, says Diebold terminals retract receipts that customers don't take -- if they haven't already read them and let them blow away in the wind. The receipt also blacks out the account and routing numbers across the bottom of the check, to prevent major bank fraud.

Any innovation that gets people to use ATMs instead of tellers save banks money, he adds. Besides, it's also less expensive to process checks that don't come in envelopes.

Overall, the new receipt provides "peace of mind," concludes PNC's McMahon.

Replies Foley: "I would suggest that the bank consider it from the realm of what could seriously go wrong here."

-- Melissa Meinzer

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