Is it a crime to get engaged to someone from another country? No, but it does raise red flags for wire fraud when you’re trying to transfer money. That’s what Robert learned when his Egyptian-born fiancÃ©e tried to deposit money into their wedding savings account that they share, but is in her name because she doesn’t yet have a Social Security number.
I have been reading your site for a long time now, but never thought I would find myself writing to you now. I just got off the phone with a rep from Ally Bank. I opened a savings account online about 2.5 weeks ago, in order to start pooling deposits into it in order to save for a wedding in about a year and a half time. I had not made the initial deposit yet as I was between paychecks, and my fiance and I were going to make the deposit this week. She is from Egypt and has been here for 3.5 years now on asylum. She was denied her first hearing, and has appealed. We are in a very long appeal waiting period at this time that can take years. This is important as you will see. Naturally she does not have a social security number yet.
She has her own bank account through Bank of America, and I have a USAA account.
We had some questions for the bank when opening the account given that she does not have a SS# and we could not add her to the Ally account. We wanted her to be able to directly deposit funds into the account, instead of using bill pay with BofA which costs $3 a transaction to get funds into my USAA account. So I called Ally Bank customer service and spoke to a wonderful lady. She listened well and understood our position but did explain that the bank does not allow for transfer of funds to or from any one’s account without a SS#. So I asked about doing wire transfers or check mailing, to which she again told me that it was not possible, all transfers, wires, or mailed checks must contain my name and account info. It was not possible to have my fiance write a check and mail it, nor wire transfer funds into the Ally account. I thanked the customer service rep, and hung up.
2.5 weeks later I tried to log into the account online to make the initial deposit that was required. I am very happy now I never deposited a dime into the account previously, because the account was blocked and I was locked out, and directed to call customer service. So I called, and the rep was not as helpful as the previous rep. He made me verify a lot of account info, not out of the question I felt, but it was a lot more then normal. After a few minutes of explaining I was locked out, and going back and forth, he put me on hold. After 3 minutes he came back and told me he could not provide me any further assistance, and that he was directing my account o another person who I could not speak to today. I would have to wait for this other person to call me back within 24 hours. No further info was given, and he was very blunt about this fact. I inquired about who would call me and when and he told me someone, and within 24 hours.
Now after the call I started to wonder if they had an issue with the account because I had not made my initial deposit, but I realized if that was the case the rep would have done that with me, so this was different. I started to focus on the possibility that Ally had flagged my account as fraud due to my fiance not having a SS# number and they wanted to verify my account info, and nothing more. Literally 24 hours on the dot I get the call today.
She identifies herself as a rep from Ally Bank, but nothing more. She asks me to verify account info and the standard account verification is done. What happens next still has me surprised and a bit freaked out. Now I have no issue with any company trying to verify info when possible fraud may be at hand. I rather was glad that they wanted to make sure my account was ok. But it was not the question of fraud that upset me, it was rather how much personal and private information Ally Bank had gathered not about me, but about my fiance. Things that are very private and I am still not sure how they found it.
She asked me if I met my fiance online. I paused at this question, and I asked her is she was assuming, and she told me no, she needed to verify if I met her online or in person. I asked why and she told me it was because the bank knew and needed to verify how I knew this woman. I told her online, but that we attend the same church, to which she replied, yes I see that here, and she identified the exact church we go to together. She then asked how it was possible I met this woman online and also went to the same church together. To which i replied that was private info, but that I joined the church after I met her. All this time between questions it was silent on her end of the call. No call center noise, no typing, just silence.
She asked me how long she was here, and I asked her why was this important? Ally bank apparently digs up a lot of personal info on their customers, because she told me that they were concerned that the account was too risky to keep open and that they were going to close the account due to discrepancies in account info I provided. I asked what info was wrong, and she told me that they do not condone accounts that have met others online who are not US citizens. She continued to tell em that Ally Bank does not allow non citizens to be connected to any account without a SS# and the account was closed due to possible wire fraud. I asked how they gathered this info and through the course of telling me that it was public knowledge, I doubted that claim because my fiance does not have a public Internet profile. She told me that she was here on asylum and was denied and is now under appeal and she was a citizen of Egypt. She is not a US citizen and as a result Ally Bank does not allow accounts to be connected to such people.
I tried to explain that I just wanted to make sure during my call that everything was ok by asking questions about the account since she is here under asylum. So as not to do anything incorrectly, but that if Ally bank had an issue with her being connected to the account I agreed. I just wanted the account connected to my USAA account since day one, when the 1st rep told me that was all Ally Bank allowed. She informed me that that was no possible due to the account being to risky to the bank, and that they were closing the account. I asked if I could open a new account and just have it a normal account like I wanted, and she told me that I was banned for life from ever opening an account with Ally Bank.
I was shocked and surprised when she said this as I have never done anything remotely close to fraud, but I was being labeled a fraud risk. I thanked the rep for her call, and expressed my understanding that doing research in fraud cases is understandable, but that gathering private information on their customers concerned me greatly. How was it possible within 24 hours to gather so much personal info on two potential customers? I can see a credit report on me as a simple means of background checking, but her? She has no SS#, so the bank would have had to inquire with the US government and court systems for that info, and it bothers me that they gathered so much background info so rapidly. I will never recommend Ally Bank based on the fact that they gather customer info well beyond your credit report and financials. I just wanted to share my story with your wonderful site.