Bank of America questions customer’s citizenship, freezes accoun - KCTV5 News

Bank of America questions customer’s citizenship, freezes accounts

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(AP) (AP)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

This is a heads-up for any Bank of America customer: You might be getting questions about your citizenship status and even have your accounts frozen with no warning.

KCTV5 News heard about this happening when one of our longtime photographers, Josh Collins, told us what happened to him.

He had received a mailer claiming to be sent by Bank of America that asked for personal information and citizenship information.

However, he has been a Bank of America customer for 20 years and was born a U.S. citizen, so he figured it could be a scam and that the bank would follow up if it was legitimate.

The next thing he knew, his accounts were frozen without notice.

“They only do that to people’s accounts for people trying to flee the country,” he said. “We’re not criminals. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

When he found out his card was declined and when he called Bank of America to find out why, they told him his account was frozen.

“The first question is, ‘Oh, we sent you something in the mail a few weeks ago,’” he recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, I remember getting something that didn’t look real.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we need to know if you’re a citizen.’ You know, I was born and raised in Kansas like Superman. I said, ‘How much more American can you get?’”

The bank representative told Collins he would have access to his accounts the next day,

“So, we get up in the morning,” he said. “Card doesn’t work again. So, my wife -- being the patient one -- calls and they said, ‘Well, your cards have been lost or stolen.’”

That was not true.

“So, at that point, we decide to go into the physical bank and it took about 15 minutes, but the first question they asked me was, ‘Are you a citizen?’” he said. “Again? ‘Yes.’ And then they wanted to know if I had dual citizenship.”

They eventually unfroze Collins’ accounts, but not before sending an email notifying him all of his automatic bill payment accounts were wiped out.  

Collins said the bank explained that, eventually, they would be asking this of all their customers.

Sure enough, when KCTV5’s Emily Sinovic logged into her account, there was an alert to update personal information, then a big alert asking her to update her citizenship status, and then a question asking whether she is a dual citizen.

However, there was no warning about frozen accounts.

We contacted Bank of America for comment and they sent the following statement: 

"Like all financial institutions, we’re required by law to maintain complete and accurate records for all of our customers and may periodically request information, such as country of citizenship and proof of US residency. This is not unique to Bank of America. This type of outreach is nothing new and the information must be up to date. Therefore we periodically reach out to customers, which is what we did in this case.

Over time, we reach out to all customers to verify their information, not only specific customers. If we don’t hear from a customer in response to our outreach, as a last resort, we may restrict the account until we can confirm it is in compliance with regulatory requirements."

Later on Friday, they sent the following updated statement:

"Updated statement:

Like all financial institutions, we’re required by law to maintain complete and accurate records for all of our customers and may periodically request information as required by law and regulation. This is not unique to Bank of America.  This type of outreach is nothing new and the information must be up to date. Therefore we periodically reach out to customers, which is what we did in this case.

Over time, we reach out to all customers to verify their information, not only specific customers. If we don’t hear from a customer in response to our outreach, as a last resort, we may restrict the account until we can confirm it is in compliance with regulatory requirements."

Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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