SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Bruce Francis depends on his dog, a nine-year-old pitbull mix named Dash, for more than just companionship. Francis has a rare form of M.S. and Dash is a certified service dog.
Earlier this month, as was his routine, Francis paid Dash’s dog walker using his online banking account with Chase. On the memo line for the check Francis had typed Dash’s name.
“The dog walker comes to me and says, ‘I haven’t gotten your check,’” Francis said. “I looked in my Chase account and there was a message that saying ‘Please explain what for Dash means.”
The alert from the bank mentioned OFAC, an office of the U.S. Treasury.
Bruce called OFAC, and to his surprise, he got a call back, informing him that the transaction was flagged because his dog’s name is similar to the word DAESH, a term for ISIS in the Islamic world.
The bank stopped payment on the check.
“I thought to myself, ‘Great, they’re stopping the world’s stupidest terrorist,” Francis quipped.
Edward Hasbrouck, who represents a civil liberties group called the Identity Project, says many people don’t realize that banks are required to scan all the financial transactions of their customers and turn over anything suspicious to the Treasury Department. While the banks are just following the law, because it’s all done in secret, Hasbrouck worries about overreach and a lack of transparency.
“What happens is that the government requires the banks to become in effect, outsourced spies for the government,” Hasbrouck said.
In spite of the mix-up with the bank and what he says are real privacy concerns, in principle, Francis says he supports what the banks are doing.
“I think anything we can do to stop the terrorists and the funding of terrorists, let’s do it. And if it means an inconvenience to me and my dog walker then that’s a price I’m totally willing to pay.”
A Chase spokesperson issued the following statement to KTVU: “If a name on the OFAC list appears on a payment, we are required to review it. This is an important part of ensuring that crime does not filter through the us banking system. In this instance, the payment was flagged, reviewed and eventually released.”