Bank Of America Froze Accounts After Questioning US Citizenship

By @AtanuShaw on
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Bank of America is on the headlines lately but for all the wrong reasons. Recent reports reveal that the bank has been freezing accounts after requiring customers to prove they are in the country legally.

While proof of citizenship isn’t a requirement to open a bank account, several cases of the Bank of America questioning users citizenship and income have surfaced. The Miami Herald reported last week that an Iranian doctoral student had been locked out of his account after the bank rejected the documents he had provided.

Saeed Moshfegh has been living in the US for seven years and is close to finishing his Ph.D in Physics at the University of Miami. To comply with requirements and to maintain his account, he provides a proof of legal residency to the bank every six months. However, on his recent visit to a branch in South Miami, officials of the Bank of America did not accept his papers and insisted he provided another form.

Moshfegh isn’t the only one experiencing this issue. In July, the Kansas City Star reported a similar case wherein a couple was locked out of their account after being Bank of America customers since the early 2000s.

According to Josh Collins and Jessica Salazar Collins from Roeland Park, they received a letter from the bank asking about Josh’s citizenship. They ignored the letter thinking it was a scam. However, a few weeks later the bank cut off their access to their money.

In response to the growing backlash, Bank of America spokeswoman Carla Molina released a statement saying questions about citizenship is part of “laws and regulatory requirements.”

“The regulations are not meant to determine immigration status. Like other banks, we ask for information about citizenship so that we can comply with country-specific sanctions as well as customer due diligence requirements imposed by the U.S. government,” Molina told Huffington Post.

The California Bankers Association had a different take on the issue though. The largest state affiliate of the national association says questions about consumers’ citizenship are not federally required.

How to avoid getting your account frozen?

While there’s a whole lot that go into making sure your bank accounts won’t get frozen — including the political side of things. However, there are a few things you can do to try and avoid this problem.

  • Never ignore bank communications

It may seem like a scam sometimes, but never ignore bank letters or emails. You wouldn’t want to miss an important announcement because you thought it was a fraudulent. When in doubt, call up your bank to ask.

  • Know your bank details

Make sure you have a complete list of your bank details. Your account number, interest and fees you may incur, and current amount in your account.

It’s also important to know your routing number. Your Bank of America routing number can be found on the lower left side of your check. This will make your transactions easier.

  • Complain if needed

If you feel your bank is not providing you with the right service, know that you can complain to several government institutions. The US government’s official website has published a list of agencies as well as the process to make complaints if needed.