FinCEN and Address Confidentiality Programs

How do you open a bank account when you are hiding from domestic violence?

The rules implementing the Bank Secrecy Act require a financial institution to implement a Customer Identification Program that includes procedures that enable it to form a reasonable belief that it knows the true identity of its customers. The rules also require that a financial institution obtain a residential or business street address from each customer.

To make it easier for the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to stay hidden from their attackers, 31 states have enacted Address Confidentiality Programs to help protect the home address of victims. These programs provide a confidential mail forwarding system. Typically, the Secretary of the State assigns a substitute address to the program participant to be used as their legal mailing address. Staff retrieve the participant’s mail and forward it to the participant’s actual physical location.

That is where the Address Confidentiality Program program runs into the Customer Identification Program.

But the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued a letter ruling to help financial institutions get out of this pickle. The FinCEN regulations also allow:

“If the individual customer does not have a residential or business street address, then the rules permit the individual customer to provide a “residential or business street address of next of kin or of another contact individual.”

See 31 C.F.R. §103.121(b)(2)(i)(3)(ii), §103.122(b)(2)(i)(A)(3)(ii), §103.123(b)(2)(i)(A)(3)(ii) and§103.131(b)(2)(i)(A)(3)(ii)

In FIN-2009-R003, FinCEN found:

A customer who participates in a state-created ACP shall be treated as not having a residential or business street address and a secretary of state, or other state entity serving as a designated agent of the customer consistent with the terms of the ACP, will act as another contact individual for the purpose of complying with FinCEN’s rules. Therefore, a financial institution should collect the street address of the ACP sponsoring agency for purposes of meeting its CIP address requirement.

Problem solved. At least it will be once knowledge about the ruling is passed along to front line people enforcing the Customer Identification Programs.