The Wall Street Journal reports that some banks are using a database "to blacklist customers for even small slip-ups." The database, known as ChexSystems, is subscribed to by 80 percent of banks in the United States -- and once your name is placed on it, none of those banks will let you open a checking account. What's more, "once lodged in ChexSystems, you automatically stay there for five years, whether your offense was bouncing a check or two or committing serious fraud." As a result, an increasing number of people -- particularly the poor -- are finding themselves unable to write checks for years through any bank, even if the offense was only a one-time bouncing of a check. "Denied access to checking, a privilege most Americans take for granted, those stuck in ChexSystems are forced for five years to use expensive check-cashing services and to undergo the inconvenience of paying bills with money orders or cash. Customers often learn about having been placed in the database only when told be a bank explaining why an application for a new account has been rejected." Says one chief banking officer: "..if you are in the system, a checking account is not an option, regardless of why you are there." The Journal examines whether the punishment fits the crime, and looks at the toll on low-income areas.
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