WASHINGTON — 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 Trump has selected to be the lucky recipient of his salary, an easy way to show the president sticking to his 2016 campaign pledge to forgo his $400,000 salary and donate it.
In the past, the $100,000 check from 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, 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 $100,000 check she held up like a prop appeared to be a real check from Capital One, complete with the relevant details. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but an administration official said mock checks were never used in the briefing.
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 Eva Velasquez, president and chief executive of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “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.”
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. Trump, she said, was not likely to be hacked.
But she said the image of McEnany flashing 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,” Velasquez said. “It’s very important for your average person to understand this is not a best practice.”
Mike Chapple, a teaching professor of information technology at the University of Notre Dame, said the appearance showed why large promotional checks 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 check,” he said. “The rest of us should play it safe and keep our account numbers to ourselves.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.