Sunday, January 24, 2010

Intrusion Or Protection? You Decide

If you have an account with Philippine National Bank through which you receive U.S. social security benefits via direct deposit, don't be surprised if you receive an unannounced visit by a representative of that institution.

That's what happened to my wife. The PNB agent stated that the purpose of this interview was to verify her identity and make sure that no one was impersonating her and misusing her social security income in the event that she had died or become incapacitated. Hence, this was a precaution that the bank was taking to protect both the customer and PNB itself. My wife forgot to ask the agent why there was no advance notice of this visit, but our guess is that the purpose was to catch a would-be imposter off guard.

However, some of the questions that the representative asked were a bit unnerving (or nervy) and had no apparent connection with my wife's bank account, such as her state of health, work history, the number of people at her residence, and dual citizenship holding if any. She duly answered the questions but felt uncomfortable about it and only did so based on the agent's indication that the PNB was conducting these investigations in conjunction with the Social Security Administration office at the American Embassy.

Subsequently, she contacted her Philippine National Bank branch and confirmed that these field calls were legit and will be conducted on a yearly basis. However, when in turn I contacted the the SSA at the Embassy to confirm their role in the matter, the reply was that the neither agency nor the embassy was connected with the audit and that they would get in touch with PNB to see what was going on. The SSA then called me back to report that the bank again confirmed the authenticity of the field calls. However, as per the agency's instructions, that in performing the audits bank was to refrain from invoking the Embassy's name.

So I suggest that you contact your PNB branch to see if in fact you can expect their knock on your door and if so to tailor the visit to your schedule, not to theirs. This of course will also furnish you with opportunity to inquire in advance about the kind of non-banking data that they intend to collect and for you to determine whether or not you wish to disclose such information. After all, in the end shouldn't it be your own decision as to how much of your personal privacy--if any-- you are willing to compromise?


CebuAngloBoy said...

Rick, I would definitly call this an "intrusion." Why is PNB concerned with someone possibly cheating the American SSA? Not PNBs problem! -- especially if they
weren't apparently asked by USA authorities to check into the situation.
Wonder if American's having direct deposit of SSA funds at Citibank are being intruded upon like this.
Perhaps your wife should look into transferring her account over to them!

By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! May you have many many more & remain in good health in the meantime!

Secular Guy said...

Thanks much for your reply,CAB. Changing banks can be a hassle here. Nevertheless, I hope that this incident will prompt her to do so anyway. PNB is way to big for its britches.

And thank you for the birthday wishes. Turning 65 is a bit scary, so appreciate the salutations.

Alan said...

Bank had no right to do that. How do you say "Get the f*** out of my house" in Tagalog -- or is it Ilocano?

Be of good cheer. The 60s are the most difficult decade besides adolesence. But if you have gotten this far and not been struck down by genetic/environemtal diaease or accident, you've already got reason to believe in many more years of survival (which I wish you).


Secular Guy said...

Hi Alan

(it's Tagalog). I think that part of the problem is that my wife was caught off guard. Had she known this was coming, she would have been proactive.

I agree, the sixties are a defining time. Whatever time I have left, I would rather have it defined by quality than quantity.