Electronic deposits for federal checks just as prone to fraud, theft

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To the Editor,

Are you among the five million or so Social Security, SSI, and other recipients of federal benefits who still receive payments by paper check? Tired of being told you “have” to switch to receiving those payments either by direct deposit or on a debit card? Great news! You don’t have to!

Treasury Department spokesman Walt Henderson has finally acknowledged that those who have not converted to electronic payment by the “mandated” conversion date of March 1 will continue to receive paper checks.

Despite all the platitudes about safety and security, the fact remains that electronic payments are just as prone to fraud, theft, or mistakes as are paper checks. Just ask the 85,000 Michigan Bridge Card holders whose benefits were not loaded in a timely fashion this month. Or the 6,500 Forth Worth, Texas city employees who had to wait up to four days past the normal receipt of their wages for their direct deposit to occur.

While it may cost less money to do an electronic deposit than to print and mail a paper check, the emotional cost to those who do not have or use a computer; who have no easy way of knowing the money has been deposited or loaded onto the card when it is supposed to be; who value and understand how a paper check works; and who want to be able to deposit the check wherever, whenever, and however they prefer cannot be counted in dollars and cents.

There’s nothing wrong with getting paid by direct deposit or on a debit card — if that is someone’s preference. But the paper check option should still be preserved. Now that Treasury has acknowledged paper checks will continue to be issued, three things need to happen.

First, the electronic payment mandate rule must be rescinded. Second, anyone who has switched to electronic payment since the rule was adopted must be given the option of again receiving payments by paper check. Finally, those who were forced to choose an electronic form of payment upon signing up for federal benefits must be given the option of receiving paper checks instead. Government should serve. Not intimidate.

Mike Clement

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