BofA Identity Theft Victim Gets Massive Runaround

Carmela’s Bank of America bank account was stolen. Someone was posting fraudulent transactions on her account. When she reported it to BofA, she entered into a colossal fun trap of transfers and incompetent support staff, even after visiting the branch on 107th and Broadway in Manhattan. However, rather than fighting The Man, she should have:

• Opened a new BofA account
• Transferred funds from the old to the new
• Canceled the old BofA account
• Informed the people receiving your checks that someone stole your bank account so can they please rip up the check and wait for a new one
• Written those people new checks
• Gotten on with her life

Instead she fought the law, the law almost won, but she managed to shoot a few deputies. Her letter, inside…

Here is the complaint letter Carmela wrote Bank of America:

    “I have been a customer with Bank of America since 2001. I have never had problems with the service before. In fact, I would tell my friends how great the customer service is. The ATMs are accessible everywhere. I even referred my mother. A good example of Bank of America’s customer service is that I received a phone call when I changed my address to New York. (I was currently living in St. Louis.)

    But, now, I have to take back my words. I have never experienced such incompetency like I did yesterday, Jan. 3, 2007. I experienced less than standard service although Bank of America prides itself on “higher standards.” I usually check my bank accounts every day. Yesterday afternoon, I noticed 2 fraudulent charges on my checking account although I still had my debit card in my possession. (I only use my ATM card for withdrawing/depositing money.) I called customer service, and the representative referred me to the claims department. It seems the thief had my routing number and account number. The thief was making purchases electronically. The claims rep gave me a claim number for one transaction so I could receive my money back. The rep told me that I had to wait for the 2nd transaction to post on my account. (It was still pending.) Once it posts, then I could make a claim. But, I could not close my account because I had to wait for this 2nd transaction to post. So, I asked for my account to be frozen, and the rep said that option was not the best. I asked, “What if this person continues making charges?” Then, the rep said that the claims department could take further action on all charges. I was displeased with this answer, and after talking with my mother, I went to a banking center to speak to someone face-to-face. I went to the 107th and Broadway banking center in Manhattan, and none of the representatives knew what action to take. They told me to call Customer Service. It is ridiculous that so many Bank of America employees do not know what action to take when identity fraud/fraudulent charges occur. Is this crime not a priority for Bank of America? Are these employees untrained, or is there no existing training protocol?

    Again, I talked to customer service, and again, I was transferred to the Claims Department. This gentleman told me to open another account and to transfer my money. I asked him about the checks I had written to pay for my rent and other such bills. He suggested that I leave the correct amount in the former account for the checks. After about an hour, I left the bank.

    Later that night, I was still displeased because currently, nothing is stopping this thief from taking more money from me. My checks could bounce. Does Bank of America prefer to go through claims to resolve the issue? I would think that prevention is the best strategy for both of us. For the third time, I called Customer service around 7PM. I specifically asked to freeze my account. The Customer service rep said that only Claims can freeze my account. Once I was transferred to Claims, this rep told me that only Customer Service could freeze my account. When I spoke to the 2nd Customer service rep, this woman said that she could not do it although I had told her I was in a transfer loop with these departments. She told me that she would put a stop payment on the 2 vendors that is associated with the fraudulent transactions. She told me that this would prevent any additional charges from them.

    I called again around 10PM because I felt that Bank of America was not doing anything to protect me. This Customer Service representative said that the only way to freeze my account is to go to an actual banking center. At this point, I was highly irritated. Not only did I have to put up with such incompetency, I have to deal with other vendors and their long waiting times as well. I ask this gentleman, “What am I suppose to do? If I wait for this one transaction to post, what makes you think that another transaction will not occur? Then, I’ll have to wait for that transaction to post.” He was no help.

    So, I prayed that by midnight the 2nd transaction would have posted, and I could make a claim and close the account. But by 12:15AM, it still did not post. I decided to go to bed. I woke up at 5:30 AM to see if it posted, and I would still have free nights on my cellphone before I ran into my anytime minutes. (Because of all the vendors/institutions I had to call yesterday, I had gone over my monthly plan.) And to my surprise, 2 more fraudulent charges showed up in my pending transactions, and I was charged $28 for the stop payment. The lady representative did not tell me that this action would cost me money especially since I thought it was the only preventative option available. It is outrageous that I am being charged for preventing fraudulent charges on my own account. At this point, what exactly does Bank of America do to protect me as a customer? I was livid, but Customer Service opens at 7AM. I called Customer Service for the 5th time promptly at 7AM.

    Bank of America is lucky that I spoke to 2 employees who resolved my problem because if this situation was not resolved this time, I was going to go to the banking center and close all of my accounts (2 checkings, 1 savings, and 2 credit cards). The Customer Service rep was able to put a “balance hold” on my account. Is this term unknown to other Customer Service representatives? Do they not know that this action is the same thing as freezing an account? I was able to make a 2nd claim for the transaction that I was waiting for earlier. Ron Duncan (by this time, I realized that I should be taking names) credited my account for the stop payment fee. He also tried stopping the payments for the 2 new pending transactions. He told me that it would not work 100%, but since I was able to hold my balance, I was satisfied. He did apologize for all of my inconveniences which is the first apology I have heard.

    As I am writing this e-mail, I am getting angry and wondering why I should still utilize Bank of America. I will definitely not refer people anymore. I will not be opening any new accounts with Bank of America. During this whole ordeal, I did not feel that my interests were a priority to the bank. As a victim, I, myself, could not do anything to stop this crime, and I had to completely depend on Bank of America who had failed me. I would greatly appreciate a response to this e-mail, and I hope changes will be made.”

PS Bank of America customer service sucks. Don’t bank there. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. juri squared says:

    Well, to be fair, it sounds like she TRIED to cancel/close her account but couldn’t because some of her money was tied up in that transaction.

    I suppose trying to move the rest of the money might have worked, though.

    Either way, shame on BoA. This is such a widespread problem these days; they should have a better system in place.

  2. kerry says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to think clearly when you are actively being robbed, and she had such good experiences with BofA in the past that she wasn’t expecting to get boned so hard by customer service. The prudent, clear-headed thing to do would be cut your losses, close the account and open a new one, but if I was in a less financially stable situation I would be seriously concerned about losing the stolen money. Also, it’s not exactly easy to call giant municipal utility corporations and ask them to kindly rip up your last payment check.

  3. Nygdan says:

    No wonder they can’t stop identity theft. They barely even prevented continued theft from here account, when they should’ve been actively trying to determine where the information was stolen from and where it was being used from. After all, I doubt that it was a single instance of a single person who magically came across her information and wasn’t doing it to anyone else or at any other times.

    The number of employees that she talked to should’ve been part of an identity theft team with the company, not ‘customer service’. The person using her information practically waltzed into the bank, started filling up a satchel with money, while she and the bank was watching, and they spent the time transfering her between departments.

    Guys like Billy the Kid or Jesse James must be rolling over in their graves at being born in the wrong century. Who needs a six shooter when you can rely on idiots who won’t even recognize theft when its occuring right before their eyes.

  4. facted says:

    I utilize Bank of America as my bank of choice, and though this situation certainly sucks, I would say that I’ve had no problems with them and they’ve been very helpful in all their transactions with me and refunded money where appropriate. One anecdote doesn’t brand a bank as “this bank sucks, don’t bank here”. If you want that…just like for Washington Mutual :)

  5. punkybrewster says:

    But facted, they shouldn’t be doing the kind of thing that requires refunding in the first place, right?

    Anyway, what she really, really should have done is opened an account at another bank, transferred all of her money there, closed the account at BofA, then given her old bank card to hobos looking for ATM shelter. (It still would have worked because BofA is incompetent that way.)

  6. XopherMV says:

    She says she didn’t want to open a new account because she had some pending checks and then she berates them for not freezing her account. Hello?! If they froze her account, then the pending checks wouldn’t go through anyway!

  7. ter730 says:

    I have been trying to have a commercial lien removed from our company placed there by BoA since Dec. 4, 2006. I was told it would be removed in 3 to 5 days – still waiting. I called 4 times, spoke to customer service, commercial recording and commercial loans. I spoke to supervisors that were no more helpful than their underlings. Our company switched to Commerce Bank in March 2006 and all BoA accounts were closed and all loans were paid in full. The lien should have been removed then but wasn’t. We became aware of it when applying for an auto loan with Commerce. We had to purchase the auto with funds from our Line of Credit because the lien from BoA is against all buisness assets. I emailed BoA detailing the problems and ineptitude of their employees and recieved a standard “I’m sorry you are having problems” email with no offers of additional help. I was able to get a direct phone number for one of the supervisors but no one ever answers it when I call. So as of today 1/8/07 I am still trying to resolve this matter. We originaly changed banks because of the progressively bad customer service we were receiving and it seems we were right. To make matters even worse, today I received a notice from BoA that we were being charged a $50.00 annual fee on our line of credit and that they would take the funds from the account associated with the credit line. We no longer have the account or credit line. Both were closed in May 2006. If anyone has any tips I’m open to suggestions. This is just a nasty way to do business.

  8. J.D. Roth says:


    I run a personal finance web site. It’s not consumer-oriented like Consumerist, but I still hear a lot of complaints. BofA is the #1 most-complained about bank at my site, and by a large margin. (U.S. Bank is #2, or maybe I just think so because they’ve screwed with me so many times and I hate them.) Washington Mutual is fairly well-regarded among those who have mentioned it to me.

    Personall, I’m sticking to a credit union.

  9. SuperLex1000 says:

    The real question is why a ‘bank’ has no policy in place to deal with this, especially when creating a policy is a total no-brainer (I figured it out in about 3 minutes, and my SAT scores weren’t exactly perfect.)

    You simply create a ‘smart freeze’ policy, where the person reporting the compromised account is able to provide a list of known / outstanding payments that the bank should honor (e.g. Check #2047 to ConEd for $42.15) The amount needed to cover those charges is left in the now frozen account. The bank would then treat the source of any unauthorized charges with the same level of suspicion they’d reserve for someone walking into a branch with very large sun glasses, a camera and a measuring tape.

  10. dewrock says:

    “BofA is the #1 most-complained about bank at my site, and by a large margin.”

    To be fair, couldn’t this have a lot to do with them being the largest commercial bank in the US and third largest company in the world?

    I had the same thing happen to me and with my account linked to my Dad’s…it also drained money from his account once mine hit negative numbers. I filed a claim, was refunded all of the money(including overdraft fees, even though I have overdraft protection), they froze my account, pursued legal action against whomever was doing it, and it all happened within the next day of finding the fraudulent charges.

    I think in this case what it may have come down to and someone else may have already said this, is that they probably told her it wouldn’t be a great idea to freeze the account since she told them she had some outstanding checks. I can understand her frustration over it seeming like the employees didn’t know what to do, but to be fair she just might have contributed somewhat to the confusion. She could have also researched the chargers herself to see what type they were and where they were coming from.

    I fail to see how this particular situation makes BofA evil though.


  11. waverly76 says:

    This exact thing happened to me with Citibank.

    It took about 9 months to straighten everything out.

    You might consider checking your credit report and putting a 12 month fraud alert on it so that nobody can open an account in your name.

  12. facted says:

    J.D. Roth: I opened up a WAMU account and deposited some money via personal check. They took the money out of my other account (via the check) and would not put the money in my WAMU account for up to 11 business days, which they are technically allowed to do via the banking laws in this country. When I asked them if I could have my money (or at least part of it for a purchase), they refused. I then searched them online and found PLENTY of comlaints regarding WAMU and this practice including talk of a class action lawsuit. (I guess this wasn’t on your website though :) ). Regardless, awful experince. I’ve since stuck to citibank and BOA and while i don’t love citibank, it’s much better than WAMU. BOA, however, is far and away better than both of those in my dealings with them.

    As for their policy, it’s actually what dewrock reported in his post. They’ll refund your money next day if anyone steals anything from you account.

  13. Pelagius says:

    The customer’s responsibility should end once they’ve recognized the activity and contacted the bank. It is absolutely ridiculous that BofA does not have SOPs in place when a customer contacts them to say “I’m being robbed”.

    I was recently put in a similar situation when a credit card was stolen. Because I only use it during the work week it was almost 48 hours from the time it was likely lifted until I noticed it. When I called Citibank they immediately closed the account, invalidated the card, and instructed me on how to dispute any fraudulent charges that show up on my next statement. Blank forms for doing so arrived within five days, along with my new card.

  14. raconteur says:

    Christ these comments are droll! What’s the readership on this blog? Does not one of you know how to crack a joke at this miserable woman’s expense? All she had to do was cancel her damn account! That’s the solution that would work 100%, you balance holding, massicistic, nitwit.

    Why do I, as a loyal reader, have to put up with such incompentency as this? Consumerist commentors, you had failed me and I HOPE changes will be made. Snap.

  15. Magister says:

    First thing I thought of was, she was writing checks? Who writes checks?

    If she checks her balance everyday, she should be using online bill pay. Much easier to keep track of payments that are in process.

    But otherwise, I agree that BoA screwed the pooch. In this instance, it sounds like the complaintant really tried here. BoA didn’t…

  16. worst_1_yet says:

    Bank of America is woefully incompetent. They’ve replaced all the officers with a coffee dispenser and a bunch of underlings running around with clipboards asking “Can I help you?” Sadly enough, they never can.

  17. gingham says:

    The same thing happened to me with B of A in 2000. Their customer service spent more time worrying about whether or not I was lying about the purchases that were illegally posted to my account than stopping further theft. And there was, after 10+ calls, never a log of any conversation I’d ever had with anyone there.

  18. melahead82 says:

    I am the customer who is having problems with Bank of America in the above situation. In my defense, when I did go to the banking center, I did open a new account and transferred money out of the former account. I left enough money in the former account to allow for 2 outstanding checks (rent, Xmas gift). I contacted both, and I told them my situation. At this moment in time, my checks were being processed. Both understood if my checks bounced.

    I am currently still having problems with Bank of America, and it has been a week. Surprisingly, more transactions have occurred to my account since I have placed a balance hold. My account is presently -$600. I am on vacation and having face-to-face interactions with the nearby bank manager.

    I have tried contacting the vendors of these fraudulent charges. They are even more incompetent than the bank. Direct Tv does not even have a fraud department, and Sprint/Nextel can not find an account based on the thief’s alleged name (that posted on my account) and my account number.

  19. tiffer says:

    I had the same ordeal with WAMU as the one above…. it took them 10 DAYS to recognize my deposit…. in the meantime, they bounced EVERY FCKING CHECK that I had written for my bills, so not only did I have to repay all my bills but I was subjected to over 200 dollars in nsf fees. Their customer service was absolutely horrible and none of them new what they were doing. I got at least 20 different responses each time I called to find out why my deposit was taking so long to register. THE WORST BANK EVER!!!!!

  20. EugenieRose says:

    I had a very bad experience with BofA – when I realized someone had my routing and account numbers, I went DIRECTLY to the branch. I don’t write checks, do all my banking online, so I thought, no problem, I’ll just close the account and open another one. The problem with that was, I had just been paid that day (via direct deposit), but because of the multiple thefts, my account had been overdrawn the day before. Since their computer showed me as an overdrawing deadbeat, it would not allow me to open a new checking account (I only had the one checking account at this particular bank).
    The only option they could give me? Close out my account, take the CASH, come back after the 4-day holiday weekend and open a new account.
    I stashed the money in my boyfriend’s account, since I didn’t feel like carrying thousands of dollars in cash around with me, and went to another bank after the weekend.
    They did refund the overdraft fees from the stolen money. They never did a goddamn thing about getting my stolen money BACK, I guess because I was no longer a customer.

  21. taswork1 says:

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