Banking's Rule of Thumb

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The next time you’re writing a check and get asked for ID, just give the cashier the thumbs-up. Get ready for the next step in the future of money: Thumbprint identification. It’s real, and it’s catching on all over the country. Banks in all 50 states have some version of the system, and may start requiring you to use it. Which is one of the reasons why Peter Taussig, a California businessman, is taking his bank to court. “I was not going to give them fingerprints,” said Taussig Monday. “Nor was I going to give a saliva sample or a hair sample or a urine sample.”

Some opponents of the system see the New World Order’s fingerprints all over it. “We want to prevent the development of the big database in the sky with everyone’s prints in it,” said a spokeswoman for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. Banks, on the other hand, see dollar signs: They lose around $600 million in fraudulent checks every year. But most customers, like Taussig, simply see a breakdown in trust. Whether his case will give banks a big thumb in the eye is now in the hands of a Berkeley area judge.