WASHINGTON - Six consumer groups are urging federal regulators to temporarily ban banks from refusing services to people whose names appear in databases of bounced-check writers.

"What bankers are doing here is driving people into the hands of predatory lenders," said Robert Gnaizda, policy director of the Greenlining Institute. "They are forcing these customers into using predatory systems, such as the check-cashing system."

Mr. Gnaizda and the leaders of five other groups, including the National Black Business Council, asked the heads of the four banking agencies in an Aug. 2 letter to impose a six-month moratorium on automatically denying checking accounts to people whom banks report to databases operated by private companies. They also asked for a study of these companies.

The call came in response to a Wall Street Journal story about ChexSystems, which the article described as the operator of a database of check bouncers and fraud artists used by 80% of bank branches nationally. Many banks refuse to offer people listed in the database a checking account for five years, which critics said is too harsh, according to the story.

Greenlining plans to invite the 10 largest banking and thrift companies in California to an Aug. 14 meeting to discuss the issue, Mr. Gnaizda said.

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