While Bank of America may have millions and millions of customers, one would think that having 10-digit account numbers would allow the bank to have billions of customers without duplicating a number. But this is BofA, who not only managed to have two customers with identical numbers for two years — depositing $30,000 of Social Security payments into the wrong account during that time — but who also shrugs it off by saying this “does happen occasionally.”
The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus has the story of an 88-year-old retiree who had banked with BofA for 60 years. Last December, his son and grandson began looking into the octogenarian’s accounts when it became clear he could no longer handle day-to-day maintenance of his finances. They immediately noticed that he hadn’t received a Social Security payment, which was to be direct-deposited to a BofA account, since March 2009.
So son and grandson went to the BofA branch, where they were told that grandpa and grandma’s account numbers had been changed in 2009 because of unspecified suspicious activity. The bank said it had notified Social Security about the change and grandma’s payments had been going through with no problem, but that wasn’t the case for gramps.
“The bank manager said they could see on the screen that my grandfather’s checks were going to a different account,” the grandson tells the L.A. Times. “But they said there was nothing they could do about it.”
Unable to get a good explanation from the bank, they were forced to bring in a Sheriff’s deputy to get confirmation that the money had been going to another account with the same number. The deputy then referred the case to the local District Attorney to open an investigation.
A couple months later, authorities arrested the 38-year-old woman who had been receiving the payments erroneously, saying she had known all along that she wasn’t supposed to be getting someone else’s Social Security cash. She ultimately entered a guilty plea and agreed to pay back the entire $30,000 to the SSA and another $4,000 to the BofA customer it was supposed to go to.
“It’s just shameful that Bank of America let it get this far,” said the grandson. “What’s really despicable is that the bank knew all along that it was responsible.”
The grandfather finally got his cash, but not from BofA. It came from the Social Security folks. Which means taxpayers are footing the bill for the bank’s screw-up and the other customer’s larceny.
Bank of America, which the grandson says has never apologized to his family, tells the Times, “This is an unusual and unfortunate incident… It’s not common that this happens. But it does happen occasionally.”
Bank of America’s handling of blunder is troubling [L.A. Times]
Thanks to Pamela for the tip!