My guest writer today is Anonymous who identifies a problem with Checking Finder that I have also experienced. My situation was resolved eventually by the bank to which I was applying when they contacted me directly. Read on to learn how to avoid the potential pitfalls during sign up.
Avoid the Mistakes
I had an interesting experience in trying to sign up with one of the banks on your list. I would like to somehow convey this information (without revealing my identity) to readers out there so that they can avoid some common mistakes that many people (including me) could make when going through the on-line application process.
Many banks and credit unions use an outside service provided by Checking Finder which goes through a three step process of:
- Taking your application information.
- Verifying your personal identity.
- Passing this information back to the bank or credit union.
Step (2), the identity verification process, has major problems in it that could result in your disqualification at one or more banks.
Checking Finder contracts out to a third party who, based on the social security number and valid drivers license number you provide, looks at your credit report and develops a series of security questions about your financial history. This is done in real-time and appears on your computer screen as you are filling out the application on Checking Finder. If you get any of the questions wrong, Checking Finder notifies the bank or credit union that you are applying to stating that you were unable to answer all the questions accurately.
If you fail the identity check, you could disqualify yourself from being eligible not only at that institution, but also any other institution that uses Checking Finder for the application process. Some banks have a very strict policy regarding this and will not even accept your application even if you walk into the branch with five forms of valid identification and your mother swearing on a stack of Bibles.
An example of the types of financial questions asked might be something like this:
In 2006, you may have purchased a vehicle and financed it through one of the following institutions. Please select the best answer:
a. Wells Fargo
b. Bank of America
c. GM Credit Corp.
d. None of the Above
Now you may have bought a car in 2006 and financed it initially through the GM dealership with the agreement that you have 72 hours to get your own financing. And if you did get your own financing after you left the dealership, how do you answer the question above? I would think:
d. None of the Above (but not necessarily).
The next question is a follow up and might be as follows:
Regarding the vehicle that you may have purchased in 2006, what were the number of months of this finance? Please select the best answer:
a. 72 months
b. 60 months
c. 48 months
d. None of the Above
Now if you answered “None of the Above” for the previous question, does that mean this question automatically gets a “None of the Above” answer? The people at Checking Finder suggest that is probably true: if the first question is “None of the Above”, then the following question probably should be the same.
The next question might be as follows:
In 2000, you may have had a home mortgage through one of the following institutions. Please select the best answer:
a. Wells Fargo
b. Bank of America
d. None of the Above
Now, what if the truth is that you refinanced your home in 2000 through a company called Allied Mortgage Company, but then a few months later you got a notice in the mail stating that the mortgage was sold to Wells Fargo. How do you answer the above question, (a) or (d)? Either could be right, technically.
Well, the folks at Checking Finder are well aware of this problem, indicating that it happens quite frequently, and are currently considering developing their own security questions rather than using the third party service that they now use. But until they do, remember this: if you fail the security questions test (or even if you don’t), do not take the test more than twice in 72 hours or else you will be flagged as highly suspicious. I have read about other people’s pain-staking experiences on this same issue and I now am part of the statistic.
Frankly, I believe there is really only one sure way to pass the security question test. You must go on-line to one of the credit reporting bureaus and have a print-out of your credit history in front of you when you are taking the on-line security test. Then, you must provide the answers to the on-line test that are consistent with your credit report history (even if it’s not exactly correct). Doing it this way could be more trouble than it’s worth for some, but that’s about the only way you can be sure that you will be identified as the real you.
Sheeez, such irony in the fact that it’s almost as hard for a person to prove who they are as it is for an impostor.
15 May 2009 — Erik from Checking Finder emailed me (Rick alias Rickety) a response to this post. The email cleared up some misconceptions so I believe it is only fair that applicable portions of Erik’s reply are published:
In order for financial institutions to open accounts online and comply with federal regulations they have to be able to verify an applicant’s identity. Institutions do this by partnering with a 3rd party (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, etc.) and present the applicant with a series of out of wallet questions (out of wallet questions are questions that if someone found your wallet on the street, they wouldn’t be able to answer). Based on the applicant’s response to these questions, the application is given an assessment index/score, which is sent to the financial institution for review. The financial institution then evaluates the results of this identity verification screen along with a debit screen – used to verify one’s banking history, and the results of the OFAC Check (a list of potential terrorists) to make a decision on whether or not to accept or deny an application. In some instances, the financial institution may require additional documentation in order to verify ones identity.
If you get an answer wrong, it doesn’t have any impact on you. However, if you try to apply more than twice within a 72 hour period you will get flagged for review because it looks fraudulent – this is to protect consumers against identity theft. Keep in mind, it is completely normal for the correct response to an out of wallet question to be “None of the Above”.
Thanks for the clarifications, Erik.
I had a problem like this too. CheckingFinder had placed me on notice to the bank that there was a problem with some of the security questions on my first application. I re-applied after 72 hours at the bank which re-directs to CheckingFinder. The second application went very strange for me.
During the second application, the process at CheckingFinder sent me thru two (2) screens of security questions (rather than one screen like the previous application did) and the first question on both screens was exactly the same question:
“Which one of the following streets might you have lived on in the past?”
The answers were the same both times.
The remaining 4 questions on both screens (total of 8 questions) had no security integrity in them whatsoever because the correct answer was “None of the Above” to all eight questions, and having answered that way passed the security test. Then, after going thru the “funds transfer” screen, the next screen after that was the “Account Opened” screen. So what was seemingly impossible to pass, was now more of a joke and it would seem that anyone could pass if you just answer “None of the Above” to all the questions (hah!)
I think the security questions test at CheckingFinder needs a lot of work (1) to make it realistically doable for the applicants, and (2) MUST get rid of the “None of the Above” choice for all questions and have like 5 or 6 possible answers to choose from instead of just four. That would make the test harder for fraudulent activity to pass (and protect people as well), but it would also get rid of the confusion associated with the “None of the Above” questions and follow-up questions which appear to be overly used.
I had a friend who applied to the same bank as I did through Checking Finder. We both failed the test. The bank took the initiative to contact us and administered the test over the phone directly, which we passed. This is not a good introduction for new customers.
mike wood says
Checking Finder experience from hell:
If you think you are having a rough time after being turned down for an online bank account, try applying for a joint account. Then you have the additional headache of trying to figure out which of the two applicants is causing the problem. As is pointed out in the blog post, your “known” correct answers are not always the “right” answers.
I had “bank of the sierra” turn me down a few days ago. I spoke to them and was told I could reapply. I reapplied and the computer program posed different security questions to which I was better able to answer. In other words, even if the same 2 people apply to open an account, they will asked different or random questions pertaining to past accounts.
I think the procedure or software is very poor. I even got on the phone with trans union after getting a copy of my report. Even though neither ChexSystems or Trans union lists very much personal info, like old addresses or old phone #’s, these questions are posed to you by checkingfinder.
What if they ask you about employers you never had? People cannot be expected to remember every bit of personal information, especially information like old phone #’s.
I was able to get “bank of the sierra” to give me a yes the second time and a qualified yes from “Bank of Missouri.” I have to call missouri for further verification. For those of you who have moved around, or are apartment dwellers, all I can say is expect to be denied. The online banks are using a poorly devised and grossly imperfect account approval system.
The system definitely needs improvement. I applied to Bank of the Sierra and mine went through OK. But I didn’t apply for a joint account. There must be a better way. Also with the Bank of the Sierra make sure you request Estatements. The link is on the home page, bottom right. You will need your original login and password. I had to contact the bank to find out where the link is because you do not have access to it from inside your account.
Yeah, i also feel like The system definitely needs improvement.
Awful. Yesterday Chase checking application asked me something a la
“You may have had an auto loan in 2003. What was the monthly payment?”
a) 400 – 550
b) 550 – 700
c) 700 – 850
d) none of the above
Do they think I have a decade-long auto loan? How am I supposed to answer that? They also asked have I worked for “STAMFORD UNIVERSITY” or not? No, I did work for Stanford though. Was locked out of my account, called to unlock it, but also failed the retest. Does that count as two applications in 72 hours? What a friggin nightmare!