Trump's press secretary displays one of his cheques in a little too much detail

The US$100,000 cheque appeared to be a real cheque from Capital One, complete with the relevant details. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - It's a feel-good story that President Donald Trump's press secretaries have relished over the years: the quarterly announcement of which government agency Mr Trump has selected to be the lucky recipient of his salary, an easy way to show that the President sticking to his 2016 campaign pledge to forgo his US$400,000 (S$570,000) salary and donate it.

In the past, the US$100,000 cheque from Mr Trump has been made out to the Small Business Administration initiative to help veteran entrepreneurs, to the Office of the Surgeon-General to fight the opioid epidemic, and to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, among other places.

But on Friday (May 22), Ms Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, did not just reveal that the President was sending his salary to the Department of Health and Human Services to help "support the efforts being undertaken to confront, contain and combat the coronavirus". She also displayed the President's private bank account and routing numbers.

The US$100,000 cheque she held up like a prop appeared to be a real cheque from Capital One, complete with the relevant details. An administration official said mock cheques were never used in the briefing.

A White House spokesman, Mr Judd Deere, said in a statement: "Today, his salary went to help advance new therapies to treat this virus, but leave it to the media to find a shameful reason not to simply report the facts, focusing instead on whether the cheque is real or not."

For an average civilian, that information could be used to withdraw or deposit money, make online purchases or hack an account.

"It's not a best practice to share that information publicly," said Ms Eva Velasquez, president and chief executive of the Identity Theft Resource Centre. "If you don't have protections in place, there are sophisticated schemes and ways someone could access those funds knowing the account and routing number and the individual person it belongs to."

Ms Velasquez said that a bank was almost certain to have additional protections in place on the account of a high-profile person like the president. Mr Trump, she said, was not likely to be hacked.

But she said the image of Ms McEnany flashing Mr Trump's personal information in front of cameras sent a concerning message.

"This is one of those situations where setting the example is very important," Ms Velasquez said. "It's very important for your average person to understand this is not a best practice."

Professor Mike Chapple, who teaches information technology at the University of Notre Dame, said the appearance showed why large promotional cheques were used for television appearances.

"They're not only a nice prop onstage, but they also omit the sensitive account information that normally appears at the bottom of the cheque," he said. "The rest of us should play it safe and keep our account numbers to ourselves."

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