Money Grouse: Dealing with an identity crisis

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The Independent Online
BUILDING societies complain about outflows of funds, but it has never been harder to give them your money - or, at least, to open a new account.

The Criminal Justice Act's stringent provisions against money laundering mean that you need at least a suitcaseful of ID before you can hand over cash. An attempt to deposit pounds 500 with the Chelsea Building Society was foiled last week for lack of a gas bill or a driving licence.

Far from home and with no council tax bill or rent book to hand, I gave up and took a bagful of ID to the Leeds the next day. Its list of requirements was different, although it also seems keen on the driving licence or gas bill, neither of which I had with me. Eventually, it settled for my home telephone number (ex-directory and verbally given).

The aims of the rules are admirable, but staff are understandably jumpy: they could be liable to jail terms for not enforcing them.

There is no intra-industry liaison on ID. Societies will not accept each other's passbooks because they don't know how rigorous checks have been, although a bank statement will do.

The Chelsea says staff are supposed to exercise discretion, but many are prepared to accept only the documents recommended by head office.

The society says it recognises that young people, who may not have utility bills or a driving licence, could find it particularly difficult to open accounts.

The moral is, check the society's requirements before you try to open an account - or take a wheelbarrow of ID documents with you.

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Please do not send SAEs or original documents as we cannot guarantee to deal with every letter personally.

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