A front page article in the Wall Street Journal detailed the ease with which private investigators discovered accurate bank balances for customer accounts at financial institutions throughout the country.
The article highlighted the stories of several individuals who were dismayed to learn that their accounts had been located and the balances disclosed-without their knowledge. The case of Dale Ohmart, a New Hampshire minister, was particularly striking. After Ohmart was involved in a minor accident, a local attorney, Frank Federico, acting on behalf of his client, retained an investigator to search for Ohmart’s bank accounts. As quoted in the article, Federico said he hired the investigation firm because “we don’t like to go after people individually unless they have liquid assets.” Within a short time, the investigator provided Federico with account numbers and balances on four of Ohmart’s accounts at Fleet Financial. Based upon the small balances in the account, Federico chose not to pursue the case. The article concludes, “Mr. Ohmart, age thirty-nine, didn’t know that his account confidentiality had been violated until he was contacted for this article. He now says that he is considering closing his Fleet Financial (now Bank of America) accounts, and asks, ‘How in the world can I feel that the relationship I have with the bank is secure or that my own assets are secure?’.”