BoA Incompetence Helps Identity Thief Make Rachel Poor Broke

The Red Tape Chronicles has a story about an identity theft victim who allowed herself to be victimized over and over again. Rachel Poor (pictured) noticed some unauthorized spending on her account, reported it, but then continued to use the account and make deposits. Every time she put money end, the crook would overspend it. On top of that, she also got hit with 20 overdraft fees, and so forth. It got so bad that she had to beg her boss for a loan. The article’s author asks, “why a criminal was able to steal money from Poor’s account more than two weeks after she reported it as suspicious.”

Um, we have an idea. She left the account open. The moment you see fraudulent charges, close the account! How is the bank supposed to differentiate between your transactions and the thief’s (or thieves’)? Who knows how long it will be before they take action and issue refunds? Do yourself a massive favor and shut the account down. Otherwise you’ll find yourself living up to the name of Rachel Poor… — BEN POPKEN

UPDATE: Oh, we didn’t see this part:

“As soon as I put money in, he was able to take it out,” she said. “I kept asking why they couldn’t just close the account.” The answer: Accounts that have a negative balance can’t be closed.

Ok, that’s pretty messed. In that case maybe then you walk down to the bank with enough money to cover the fees and the takeouts and say, ok, I want to deposit this, put a hold on the account, and then close it, one right after another? We would also be filing a police report.

We got this entirely wrong. That’s what we get for posting before drinking coffee. Best just read the article. Basically, Rachel got screwed by both her bank and the identity thief. At one point she even zeroed out the balance and tried to close the account, but in the few moments between those two actions, the thief put the balance in the red again. Everything was eventually sorted out, but it took Bank of America a month to set everything straight. Rachel did everything right, and as quick as she could, but it still wasn’t enough. — BEN POPKEN

DOUBLE TROUBLE FOR ID THEFT VICTIM [The Red Tape Chronicles]

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  1. Wormfather says:

    Not always so simple. A few years back I had an account with Commerce Bank. I my card was lost/stolen. I realized this a couple of days later when about 350$ charges were on my account. I went in to report it and they just wanted to give me a new card, I insisted on having a new account but the were treating me as if I was parinoid.

  2. LuvJones says:

    Wow. How could she NOT know to close the account? AND she kept giving the thieves her money. Sorry I’ve saving my sympathy for those who truly deserve it. This lady is special in an extra kind of way!

  3. Pelagius says:

    but then continued to use the account and make deposits. Every time she put money in, the crook would overspend it

    Is her middle name “Stupid”?

  4. I don’t know what’s crazier: that her last name is actually Poor or that she actually had the nerve to have a photo of herself accompany the story.

  5. joeblevins says:

    She looks like an alien… A stupid alien.

  6. Oh wait, nevermind:

    “I kept asking why they couldn’t just close the account.” The answer: Accounts that have a negative balance can’t be closed.

    She should have stopped trying to make deposits but she did actually try to close the account.

  7. zentec says:

    Lesson to be learned here is that no one is going to protect your interests other than yourself. While I sort of fault the bank just a bit for not telling her she should close her account, maybe this woman wasn’t exactly clear in conveying the suspicious nature of the transactions.

    The cynical side of me says that no one can really be that naive and maybe she has a problem controlling her finances and this story is intended to get her some sympathy from the bank, or publicity for a web site where she can Paypal handouts from a sympathetic public.

    At what point do you start to realize that putting money into your bank account just makes it disappear? I have to believe that even the most unsophisticated consumer would quit depositing checks after the first one vanished.

  8. Pelagius says:

    Having actually read the article now, I’d like to retract my previous comment. Sounds like BofA kept reassuring her that it was taken care of, but it wasn’t.

  9. ARPRINCE says:

    Maybe it was her boyfriend who was taking the money out that’s why she keeps on putting it in. She’s in with him in this CON game. otherwise, she should have colored her hair blond. ;)

  10. Indecision says:

    The article’s author asks, “why a criminal was able to steal money from Poor’s account more than two weeks after she reported it as suspicious.”

    Um, we have an idea. She left the account open.

    Wow, way to blame the victim, there. Why did the bank allow fraudulent activity to continue after they were notified? Why didn’t they offer even the smallest amount of help? Are you honestly suggesting that the bank has no responsibility at all, here?

    The quoted “update” paragraph shouldn’t make a difference. The bank’s behavior is abhorrent either way.

  11. scavenger says:

    I feel like you guys failed to read the article before posting it…she couldn’t close the account because it had a negative balance. You make her sound like some sort of idiot, but the story shows she was being jerked around by her bank. Granted, she probably should have stopped depositing money sooner, but you guys really dropped the ball as far as how you reported the story. If I hadn’t read the original, I would’ve been left with a completly incorrect impression based on your summation.

  12. mroach says:

    I guess common sense is not so common anymore :/

  13. Charybdis says:

    It’s her fault to be sure, because she’s ultimately responsible for her money. But at the same time it’s also definitely her bank’s fault for not closing the account immediately. And yes you can close a negative balance account, or at least put it in a closing/no transactions status pending investigation. This is standard practice, both in identity fraud and outright customer fraud. I refuse to believe that any bank bigger than ‘The 1st Bank of Steve’ doesn’t have this capability. Then, depending on how much it was and how it was taken out, she might either receive immediate provisional credit or wait for the fraud department to credit her back.

    At Chase (don’t hit me) we close any retail accounts if we even suspect there might be fraud, either now or in the future. It’s amazing how often people say “Um, somebody called me today and asked for my account/routing number, and I gave it to them. Was that wrong of me?”

    It seems likely she managed to get the stupid/lazy employee/manager who wouldn’t help her. Any time they tell you something that sounds completely wrong, leave and go to another branch. It’s amazing how different they can be.

  14. Scuba Steve says:

    This all makes sense once you realize that BOA doesn’t care about it’s customers and certainly won’t protect them from fraud, especially when it costs BOA to do so.

  15. gwong says:

    Wow, Bank of America really knows how to look out for their customers, don’t they?

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    Even if they can’t close an account (which is stupid but…), they can surely freeze it while opening a new one. It’s not like the digital gods charge more for the “freeze” bits to be set than any other.

    Reminds me of their trying to sneak a frivolous charge on all MBNA credit card accounts after they bought them. Hiding in tiny print in a 3pp legal document sent to new customers, “if you don’t want to pay us, snailmail w/in 20 days”.

    Bottom line: BofA is dishonest, heartless and evil. Flee!

  17. humphrmi says:

    @Charybdis:

    It’s her fault to be sure, because she’s ultimately responsible for her money.

    That’s an interesting position, given that it’s been established that she tried to close the account. But we learn a bit more from your post:

    At Chase (don’t hit me) we close any retail accounts

    […]

    Ah there we go. You work for the industry. Now I understand why you still believe it’s her fault.

  18. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    They have to reverse unauthorized charges (can’t remember which Federal Reserve regulation it is, but there’s something about that in there)… So, reverse the charges and close the account (which then would have a zero balance).

  19. Buran says:

    Nice job. Aren’t you supposed to be a PRO consumer site, not anti-? You blamed the victim without doing a check to see why she was complaining. And then you left the misleading headline up with a tiny little “correction”. No love here.

  20. Any time they tell you something that sounds completely wrong, leave and go to another branch. It’s amazing how different they can be.

    @Charybdis: Probably good advice for dealing with customer service in general.

  21. Ben Popken says:

    Lesson: don’t trust your bank.

  22. SadSam says:

    BOA sucks! I’m convinced that as banks grow larger and larger their level of customer service goes down, down, down. BOA, at this point is just like Wal-Mart, big and awful.

  23. tracilyns says:

    another reason why I’m glad I finally quit BofA and moved my money to ING.

  24. BillyShears says:

    This is terrifying, but I consider it just another excuse to carry little cash, never use checks (except when paying rent), never, ever accept a check card when offered and to basically use my credit cards whenever possible. Disputing fraudulent charges is markedly easier through those.

    I’m still going to check my bank balances later today, you never know…

  25. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    Refusing to close an account that has been reported as stolen is the most absurd thing I have ever heard.

    How stupid is this bank? Even if they don’t believe you, here is the way they protect you and them.

    1) Close old account immediately.
    2) Transfer current negative account and fees to new account
    3) Old account can no longer be accessed by criminal
    4) Research consumer’s claim. Remove fees from new account.

    That’s it. And that’s exactly what the credit card companies do. How can you keep a stolen account open and ALLOW fraudulent activity to continue while you investigate?

  26. shdwsclan says:

    Here is a piece of code even the idiots at BOA can understand.


    If ( lasalle == boa){
    accounts(close, all);
    }

  27. Trackback says:

    I have had several visits from potential clients whose identities were stolen in one way or another. In one case, the identity thief bought two houses in the victim’s name. The victim’s credit is now in ruins, and she is facing foreclosure on mortgages that were not hers to begin with.

  28. Charybdis says:

    @Seth_Went_to_the_Bank:

    1) Close old account immediately.
    2) Transfer current negative account and fees to new account
    3) Old account can no longer be accessed by criminal
    4) Research consumer’s claim. Remove fees from new account.


    Actually, leave the negative balance on the old account. That way it’s not eating up new deposits while fraud does their thing and credits you back. Should any negative balance remain at the end of the investigation then you would transfer it to the new account. Plus, it makes auditing a hell of a lot easier, which is especially important with fraud.

  29. Snakeophelia says:

    I used to use regular banks and regular credit cards. Now, it’s a credit union and AmEx, and nothing else. These types of Consumerist stories certainly do drive the point home that (a) banks can’t be relied on for good customer service and (b) there’s no point in trusting your money with anyone who isn’t going to help you out when things go wrong.

  30. tcabeen says:

    @joeblevins: Are you still allowed to comment after posting something so blatantly insulting?

    I’m glad commenters like you are still in the minority on this site.

  31. a_m_m_b says:

    I’ve worked in the banking industry for many years, seen (and had to clean up) this sort of mess regularly on bank accounts and even credit card accounts.

    Half the time it’s members who are clueless of the potential nightmare that usually strikes when they fail to demand – through a director if needed – that the compromised account be closed and sometimes it’s staff who are equally clueless (I know staff is supposed to be trained to know better & educate the member!) The other half of the time, the member (who really wants to make all the needed calls?) or the staff is being lazy (you would not believe how many sloppy, p.i.t.a. processes & systems can be involved with some institutions); neither wanting to swap over all the valid transactions, auto pays, direct deposits etc…

  32. Hey, BofA just compromised my identity too! They mailed me a credit card saying it was a replacement for a card I never had! When I called and asked “WTF, jerks?” they said I had a card. I said, “No, I have never had a card with BofA. I have had one credit card my entire life. It is with First National Bank of Place.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “You know, sometimes “we” (I hate the pontifical we) forget things.” “I’m sure that in my entire life I have only had one credit card, that I opened in 1996 when I was 18 and have had for nearly 11 years, yes. I do not know what YOU may or may not have forgotten about your past credit card use.” “It must have been yours. It’s an alumni card.” (How does that make it must have been mine?) “I HAVE NEVER HAD AN AFFINITY CARD. I HAVE HAD ONE CARD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.”

    On and on and on. They finally agreed, quite grudgingly, to close the account and put a note on “my” file at BofA. And THEN I got to call the credit bureaus, which suck mega balls when you’re trying to report fraud, to put the fraud alert on my name, and dispute the account in question.

    On the plus side, whoever had an account in my name paid his bill (of $136.99) on time and in full. So at least there’s that.

  33. superlayne says:

    It’s disgusting how the bank could let this woman’s account be pillaged like that. If I had been her, I would have gone to the bank in person, with cash, told the teller I was defiantly going to cancel the account, get into the black, cancel the account, then work on getting my refund.

    It’s also a shame an innocent woman has to be insulted because some people didn’t have the time to read the article.

  34. humphrmi says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Now wait, I must be misunderstanding something. Someone opened a card or account in your name, charged $137 on it, and then paid it off?

    Seriously????

    Well, hey, I guess there are stupid ID thiefs too.

  35. Charybdis says:

    More than likely someone at BofA mixed up McGee’s profile with someone else. They simply opened a legitimate customer’s account under his profile. Still a major screw up, but probably not fraud since they paid it off.

    Also, since it didn’t post my first reply to humphrmi – I made the mistake of not fully reading the article and going by what Consumerist quoted. If she did indeed attempt to close the account the first time she called and followed up diligently, then she’s in the right. That still doesn’t make you look less of an ass, though.

  36. @humphrmi: According to BofA, that is indeed what happened.

    @Charybdis: “someone at BofA mixed up McGee’s profile with someone else” I suspect that may be true — they told me it was an account they got when they bought MBNA, so I sort-of assume database merge issues. Still, totally obnoxious insisting over and over that it was my account and I must just not remember it!