Bank deposits at ATM machines just became low-tech thanks to a fascinating and cool new application that will allow Apple iPhone users to photograph both sides of a check, then send the images via their iPhone to make a deposit.
The new Deposit@Mobile application will debut this week from San Antonio, Texas-based USAA (United Services Automobile Association), a privately-held financial services and insurance company, according to a report in The New York Times. USAA posted a video on the new application on YouTube to show off its innovative capabilities.
USAA already released an iPhone application in May that allows members to check their bank balances, transfer money, find nearby ATMs and make other inquiries using their iPhones (and it's not the only one). Mobile banking is expected to grow. But thisnew check-depositing process will add a new dimension to the group's existing services.
The iPhone check-depositing process won't be the first time USAA has offered offsite deposits from back customers, though. Back in February 2007, the bank introduced a process in which customers could scan their checks into their home computers and then transmit the images to the back for deposit.
After using the new iPhone application, customers won't have to send the deposited checks to the bank later, but are advised to void the documents or save them for safekeeping, according to The New York Times report. Due to concerns about fraud and theft, only customers who are able to obtain credit accounts or have insurance with USAA will be eligible to use the new service.
Will this kind of application be available in the future for other brands and models of smartphones? Those possibilities will come in the future, according to posts on the bank's blog, but further details are not yet available.
Yet as cool as this is, I still am a bit concerned about the possibilities of fraud when you allow people to deposit their checks electronically, then still hang on to that alluring piece of paper, with its possible temptation to try to deposit again somewhere else. You've seen the film "Catch Me If You Can," a true story about check fraud, haven't you?
I sure hope that USAA officials -- and those at all the banks now asking 'why didn't we think of that?' -- have very carefully thought about making this as secure as possible to prevent such fraudulent activities. Because what we don't need is one more thing fouling up our nation's financial system right now. We've got enough problems fixing Wall Street, the banks, and our economy, after the recent financial meltdown. Technology promises to try to help us, not put us in a bigger hole. At least that's the hope. I, for one, hope that this new iPhone app won't be something we come to regret.
(Todd R. Weiss is a freelance technology journalist who formerly wrote for Computerworld.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TechManTalking)