A nationwide telephone survey of 1,400 adults sponsored by The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks, part of their join GoDirect initiative, revealed that, contrary to widely held perceptions, baby boomers are less inclined to use direct deposit than today’s seniors, a U.S. Treasury press release reports. While more boomers than current seniors are comfortable with technology, only 59 percent use direct deposit to receive government benefits compared with 72 percent of the older generation, the Pioneer Press reports.
February has been designated as Go Direct Month by Congress in an effort to convince more Americans, particularly the baby boomer generation, to sign up for direct deposit of Social Security checks and other benefits. Converting the 22 percent of Americans currently receiving paper checks to direct deposit could save over $100 million the U.S. Treasury says.
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A separate market research study initiated by the U.S. Treasury and published on their web site last year, showed while 78 percent of federal benefit recipients received their payments electronically in 2003, the conversion rate had slowed to 1 percent per year.
The size of the boomer population, coupled with postage increases “will drive up the government’s costs to issue paper checks exponentially, . . .and taxpayers will bear the burden,” says Dick Gregg, commissioner of the Treasury’s financial management service, told the Pioneer Press. In addition Gregg said, the Department had to solve problems relating to 500,000 checks last year. The problems ranged from lost checks to stolen or forged checks, said Anna Cabral, Treasurer of the United States.
The telephone survey revealed some misconceptions held by many Americans who resist direct deposit, according to a report on Cincinnati.com. More than half believe that checks are safer than direct deposit, half believe that direct deposit goes over the internet, and 60 percent believe that a signature is required on a deposit.
In fact, the U.S. Treasury says direct deposit is safer because it cannot be lost or stolen. Funds are transferred directly into the recipient’s bank account through a secure electronic banking system, and direct deposit, which does not require a signature, protects against forged signatures. The direct deposit system creates records of payments, and problems can be easily solved.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is also encouraging direct deposit for those taxpayers who will be receiving refunds, because it is safer and faster, WBEN reports. The IRS cautions that some banks will not permit a joint refund to be deposited to an individual account and says taxpayers should make sure that they have provided the correct nine-digit routing numbers for their bank accounts.
Financial institutions, government leaders and community-based organizations will be promoting direct deposit and the GoDirect initiative throughout the month of February through special events and activities “geared toward informing people about the benefits of direct deposit and encouraging them to sign up,” the U.S. Treasury says.