how patriot act affects expats

How the Patriot Act Affects You, Your Bank, and Your Mailing Address

It was only two weeks before I left the U.S. I had checked off three month’s worth of to-do items. I wondered if I was forgetting anything, but nothing came to mind. Then I sat back in my chair, took a deep breath. Everything was going quite smoothly. There wasn’t much left to do until moving day.

After doing some work, I check my phone. I see three missed calls from the bank where I held my savings account. All those missed calls had come within the last hour.

What could possibly be so important that the bank had to call me three times within an hour?

With a sense of foreboding, I called them back. I hoped that they were just calling to check on a transaction with my bitcoin account to make sure it was authorized by me.

The Phone Call

The rep on the other end came on, and once I identified myself, she said that new mailing address I had given them a week prior was not a legal or valid address. I responded that it was my new mailing address and they just need to direct all mail there.

“Do you live at this address,” she asked.

“No, it’s where all my mail goes,” I said.

“This is not a valid address because it is a P.O. Box. We require a valid home address on your account. Either you send me an utility bill no older than three months to prove you live at this new address, or we will close your account.”

“What?! Wait, wait, wait — what do you mean you will close my account if I don’t give you an utility bill?” I stammered.

“Under the Patriot Act, we require a legal home address, not a P.O. box, on all of our customers’ accounts. You need to give me an utility bill to prove you live at the address you have on your account, or we will close your account,” she said, very sternly.

“Hold on. The address I gave is not a P.O. Box. It is a legal address where all my mail is received and processed. I have a signed and notarized US Post Office Form 1583 with this address. I can send it to you if you like.”

“No, we don’t accept form 1583 as proof. You need to give us an utility bill no older than three months. That is the only thing we accept.”

“So you won’t even look at the form 1583? It is a legal US government document, which the utility bill is not,” I said, growing more flabbergasted by the minute.

“No. Utility bill or we close your account,” she said, rather rudely.

We go back and forth like this for another ten minutes, until I had enough of this nonsense.

“You know what,” I said, “if you’re not going to even look at the Form 1583 which proves that my address is a legal address, I’ll just take all of my money out and close this account. Right now.”

“Hold on, let me speak to my manager.”

Five minute hold.

“Okay, I just spoke with my manager, and he’s with me now, he said you can keep your account open if you give us a second address that would be your home address. You can keep the mailing address you gave us, and we will send all mail there. But we would need to have a second address to stay in compliance with the Patriot Act,” she said in a much more polite tone than before the hold.

“You mean if I keep two mailing addresses on this account? One home address, one mailing address?” I asked.

“Yes that would be perfectly fine,” she said politely.

“And you’ll direct all mail to the mailing address, not my home address?”

“That’s correct.”

“Alright, let me log in and add my home address now. Stay on the line, and when I’m done, you can check and confirm that there are no issues.”

“That’s fine.”

I log into my savings account and add in my old home address next to the mailing address.

Once I had both addresses saved, I told the rep: “Now I have two addresses.”

“Thank you, let me check.”

Two minute hold.

“These addresses are perfectly fine and we are in total compliance now. Thank you for updating your account with the second address.”

“So nobody is getting their accounts closed, right?” I asked with a bit of skepticism.

“No. Your account is in 100% good standing right now, and there’s no need to worry.”

I thanked her and hung up.

In short, we had eventually compromised by allowing me to put two addresses on my account. One is the new mailing address, and the other is the old home address for the physical address they wanted.

Obviously it’s less than ideal and they gave me a good scare, but we resolved the situation. It was funny to see the lady’s tone change right after I threatened to take all my money out and the manager got involved.

Even though I was told to not worry, I will watch carefully and be ready to move my money out at a moment’s notice. Maybe I should spread my money across several different accounts, just in case.

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