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Criminal Resource Manual

401. Introduction—General Restriction Upon Government Access

The Right to Financial Privacy Act (The Act) prohibits Government authorities from gaining access to, obtaining copies of, or the information contained in the financial records of any customer from a financial institution unless access is permitted by one of the exceptions to the Act, such as a grand jury subpoena, or is accomplished by one of the methods provided by the Act: (1) customer authorization; (2) administrative summons or subpoena; (3) search warrant; (4) judicial subpoena; or (5) a formal written request. Each of the five methods requires the financial records sought to be reasonably described. The Act requires documentation of access to protected financial records; "informal access" (i.e. an oral request) to protected records is not permitted.

It is important to note that only a narrow class of records are covered by the Act. See Records Covered.