According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners manual, the Right to Financial Privacy Act prohibits financial institutions from disclosing bank records or account information about individual customers to governmental agencies without: 1) the customer’s consent, 2) a court order, 3) subpoena, 4) search warrant, or 5) other formal demand, with limited exceptions.
Even though the statute is limited in scope and only applies to demands specifically by government agencies, most financial institutions will not release information without one of the above listed authorizations.
Even with law enforcement agencies, the most effective way to get bank records or account information is with the customer’s consent.
There are many private investigators who claim that they have the ability to obtain bank records, account information, account details and other financial information.
While this may be true, the fact of the matter remains – obtaining banking or financial details without specific authority is against federal and state statutes.
How does a “rogue” investigator get bank records?
The two most common ways that investigators obtain bank records or account information is through a source in the banking industry or through pretexting. [To save you the Google search on pretexting, it's loosely defined as the practice of getting your personal information under false pretenses.]
Although pretexting does have legitimate and legal uses [which is a story for another post], the use of pretexting to obtain financial information about another person is protected under the The Gramm-Leach Bliley Act, passed in 1999, which imposed strict penalties for individuals who obtain information about a third party account through pretext or deceit.
Word of Caution
After reading this, you may be thinking, “if I hire an investigator to get banking records, it’s the investigators problem, not mine.” Consider this though – if you are ever asked to testify as to how the information was obtained, not only will the evidence be thrown out, but there may be legal implications against you and the investigator.
There are several instances investigators conducting a “banking sweep” only to later find that the information was fake. For example, in 2009, a Toronto private investigator charged his client $60,000 for a “banking sweep.” The investigator reportedly identified $2.6 million in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, but the information was later found to be bogus.
Are there legal ways to get bank information?
There are legal ways to identify bank accounts such as this case study where we identified bank accounts in a divorce filing.
Information obtained from “inside” sources can be extremely valuable for any investigator, but when the information obtained is by unlawful means, there can be serious legal implications.