Bank of America is asking its customers about their citizenship status, and multiple customers have reportedly had their accounts frozen for refusing to answer, or for seeming to answer “incorrectly.” In response, fellow customers are lashing out at the corporation and closing their accounts.
In Saeed Moshfegh’s case, the Iranian University of Miami PhD candidate was told by his local branch that his documentation as a “student nearing graduation” was wrong, according to the Miami Herald. His account was subsequently frozen, leaving him unable to pay his rent earlier this month. Moshfegh maintains the bank doesn’t understand which forms it needs and that he provided them the correct documentation.
In July, according to the Kansas City Star, a Kansas couple decided not to answer a Bank of America mailer asking them of their citizenship status. When their account was frozen, Josh Collins, who was born in Wichita, contacted the bank and was reportedly asked his citizenship status again.
According to Splinter, Bank of America has responded to the accounts of account freezings by stating it’s “required by law to maintain complete and accurate records for all of our customers.” After reaching out to customers, if the bank does hear back, it said it may “restrict the account until we can confirm it is in compliance with regulatory requirements.”
“…[We] may periodically request information as required by law and regulation. This is not unique to Bank of America. This type of outreach is nothing new and the information must be up to date. Therefore we periodically reach out to customers, which is what we did in this case. Over time, we reach out to all customers to verify their information, not only specific customers,” the statement reads.
Several people, including one Splinter staffer, appear to have encountered this same line of questioning and have been asked whether they have dual citizenship and to update their social security number. According to Univision Seattle, Bank of America said in April that it was planning on asking all customers to update their citizenship status with the company. Tweets dating back to September 2017 show people tweeting at Bank of America and asking why their citizenship status is being questioned.
@BofA_Help why is Bank of America asking if I have dual citizenship?
— Angel M. Baker (@Angel_M_Baker) September 21, 2017
Just curious …why can't pay on my credit card without telling you my citizenship status as of this month?
— PaisleyLove (@HannibalJosie66) October 4, 2017
— Olga Alvarez (@OlgaAlvarez) October 7, 2017
I'm shutting down my BofA accounts because they asked me if I had dual citizenship. None of their fucking business. https://t.co/B1kJB3fC8Q
— Donna Alalem (@busybody2012) February 9, 2018
Went to check my balance and BofA gave me an alert to verify my citizenship status. Anyone else?
— Sharon "Donna" Houston (@sharon_houston) June 14, 2018
Why is BofA asking my citizenship status and what country I live in to close one of its credit cards and transfer the available credit line on that card to another BofA credit card?
— Veronica Garcia (@verog1018) August 6, 2018
— supererogatory masochism (@PatBlanchfield) August 30, 2018
At the time, Bank of America also told Univision Seattle that “they aren’t legally allowed to provide services to people from countries the U.S. has economic sanctions against,” but do allow customers with dual citizenship to use their services if they have citizenship from a sanctioned country.
Now, Bank of America has stated that it is “merely required to identify and report suspicious transactions and maintain and update customer information” and has been asking about citizenship for the past decade. It hasn’t been told to collect more information from customers, a spokesperson told the Herald.
“Federally regulated” or not, other Bank of America customers are not taking this questioning lightly. Many are saying that they’re in the process of canceling their business with the company, asserting that the bank’s policy is anti-immigrant and xenophobic.
since 2011/occupy, I'd ignored my BofA credit card thinking that cancelling would hurt my credit score.
well, fuck this shit. I'll take my chances.
— hana tessa (@misstourane) August 30, 2018
— Mame (@MamezyDC) August 31, 2018
Hey @BofA_Help, this is great way to lose customers.
We'll be closing our accounts today–every single one.
How do you determine who you think is a citizen?
Can only US citizens do business with your bank without fear of asset seizure?
Who gets to keep the customer's money–you? https://t.co/yxqRkzZCat
— DoubleM (@marymargrets) August 31, 2018
Collins and his wife Jessica Salazar Collins said they will be changing banks, too.