According to this reader complaint, to amass the personal information Bank of America uses to “verify your identity,” they employ a company that that trolls public records for your data. They look for things like employer, student loans held, what hotel you stayed in last year, etc.
There’s a couple of problems with this.
1) If there’s an error in the database they’re pulling from, as happened with our reader, you can erroneously get shut out from your own account.
2) If the information is coming from a public database, then an actual identity thief can easily get the information, too
In our reader’s case, Bank of America told him that he had the place where he worked at wrong. Instead of calling the work number on the account or anything like that, they shut him out of his account and hung up him. When our reader kept trying to get his account reinstated, they kept making him going through a security dance for hours and then made him go down to his bank in person and present photo ID.
Account safety is always a tug of war between convenience and safety, but the procedures should be consistent. And make sense.
You see, yesterday I initiated a transfer of $1800 from one of my BofA cards to one of my Chase cards.
Today, I got a call from the BofA Fraud Department.
I called them back, and spoke with a Mr. Timothy Kilcourse in their Kennesaw, GA callcenter.
Mr. Kilcourse asked me an entire battery of identity-verifying questions, all of which I (of course) got right.
Then, he asked me, “Who is your current employer?” I told him, while sitting in that employer’s offices, at my desk.
He told me I was wrong.
Once my brain snapped out of this Bizzaro-world moment, I insisted I wasn’t wrong, that I really did in fact work where I was sitting. He again insisted I was wrong.
I gave him, unprompted, the names of my previous two employers, which covered the past 6 years of my employment, total. He said those were incorrect as well.
I asked to speak with his boss. His boss was, of course, on vacation until Monday (has anyone ever found a person whose boss wasn’t on vacation, in a meeting, gone for the day, or otherwise unavailable when you ask for them? Sheesh!). I then asked for his boss’s superior’s name, and got it.
I asked to speak with her, and was denied.
I asked Mr. Kilcourse the name of the information source he was using, so I could correct it, because I didn’t want to have this same problem in the future. He refused to divulge this information.
I asked again, insisting that I’d passed all his other tests, and that he had erroneous information. He became agitated, vehemently refused to divulge the information, and put a block on my account. He then refused to speak with me further, telling me I’d have to go to a branch.
Then he hung up.
So I tried calling customer service, but after 15 minutes on hold, gave up and called the original number back. This time, I got a Ms. Marsha Lathem, also in the Kennesaw, GA call center. I explained what had happened, and she apologized. After a few minutes on hold, she asked me the name of a hotel I’d stayed in, in August 2006. Thankfully, I haven’t been doing a lot of traveling lately! So I hopped on Google, pulled up the website for the conference I was at, and told her the name of the hotel. She was convinced I was who I said I was, and said she’d be happy to remove the block.
While she was working on removing the block, I explained the whole employment thing to her, and asked her about the information source they use, and told her how silly I thought it was that I couldn’t correct the mistaken information. After all, she knows who I am now, right?
Apparently not. Asking her about the information source upset her, and she suddenly asked me who services my student loans.
I ask her to be patient with me while I find and pull up the spreadsheet I use to track my budget, because I don’t remember this sort of thing…in fact, I use BofA’s online bill pay service specifically so I don’t have to remember this sort of thing.
She freaks out, insisting that I’m lying, because “anyone with student loans would automatically know who they’re with!!!”
She placed the block back on my account, told me to go to a branch, and hung up.
Did I wake up in a parallel universe today?
By now I’m pissed off, so I call to complain about these two people. I called back and got Ms. Ayanna Blaze, same call center, on the phone. I politely asked to speak with Mr. Bobbi Weber about these two, since Mr. Mohan wasn’t in. Ms. Weber was he uber-supervisor whose name I got initially from Mr. Kilcourse.
Mz. Blaze told me I could not speak with Ms. Weber without first going to a branch physically and present photo ID.
At this point, I just about lost it. I can’t speak to a representative of my bank without showing photo ID?
I told her I was going there right now, and when I got there, and they called, I wanted to speak with Ms. Weber. She assured me I could.
I hung up, went to the nearest branch, and spent another hour going through all this again.
Turns out that BofA DOES have my previous two employers in their records. Mr. Kilcourse didn’t care to check. He simply insisted I was lying.
I did eventually get Ms. Weber on the phone and get the blocks removed, but we never resolved the problem with my employer information.
FastData is apparently an information aggregation service, which goes out and trolls public records for information on you, and centralizes it. BofA’s Fraud Prevention Department then relies on this information, even in the face of substantial other information, to verify your identity.
From my experience with BofA, it’s readily apparent that this information is wrong. And since it’s an aggregation service, there’s no way to find out which original source has the incorrect information, nor is there any way to correct it.
It’s also rather ironic, since Mr. Kilcourse insisted that all the other info I volunteered isn’t useful for identity verification, because it’s a matter of public record. Yet my employment information is also a matter of public record. Heck, it’s even in BofA’s own records! Just not the ones Fraud Prevention uses.
(though, most ironically, Fraud Prevention does have my work phone number in their records. My *current* work phone number. I only wished they’d called me at work, so they could insist that I didn’t work there after calling me there.)
Hey, at least know that if your account was really being hacked, Bank of America might frustrate the thief into abandoning his plundering. — BEN POPKEN