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Bank Of America Is Locking People Out Of Their Accounts Based On Their Citizenship Status

The Bank of America has begun locking people out of their accounts, cutting them off from their hard-earned money, based on their citizenship status. The Miami Herald recently reported that Saeed Moshfegh, “who’s studying for a physics PhD at the University of Miami,” found that his account had been frozen because the documentation he provided proving he was a “student nearing graduation,” was incorrect. With rent due that week, Moshfegh had no way to access his funds.

This is only the latest in a series of incidents involving Bank of America and its customer’s citizenships. In June, a Kansas couple was denied entry to their account after refusing to answer whether or not they were U.S. citizens. When they called for assistance, their customer service representative asked the couple if they were U.S. citizens.

Being a non-citizen isn’t a crime. Even entering the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant is a misdemeanor-level offense and shouldn’t be grounds for refusal of service at your bank (imagine if you couldn’t access your funds because you got a parking ticket). However, many are worried Bank of America will release its citizenship information to immigration authorities, who will use it to track down and deport them.

After shutting down the Kansas couple’s account, Bank of America issued a statement:

Like all financial institutions, we’re required by law to maintain complete and accurate records for all of our customers and 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. If we don’t hear from a customer in response to our outreach, as a last resort, we may restrict the account until we can confirm it is in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Though the Bank of America claims practices like this are “nothing new,” California Reinvestment Coalition executive director Paulina Gonzalez disagreed:

We work with consumer groups and financial counselors in immigrant communities across [California] and the country. This is new. We have Bank of America customers who we’ve spoken to who have never been asked this before last year. If they have this asked of them before they can show us proof.

Many Bank of America customers have found inquiries about their citizenship when logging onto their accounts:

Image Credit: Splinter

The Bank of America announced back in April 2018 that it would begin asking customers about their citizenship, purportedly because bank regulations require them to restrict service to citizens of countries under financial sanctions from the U.S. The bank claims even that won’t matter, however…as long as they are also citizens of the United States.

Moshfeg commented to Splinter:

It’s not the business of Bank of America to shut down someone’s account. Immigration officers are different from Bank of America….but they treat me as an alien.

Bank of America is facing heavy backlash over their most recent actions. Hopefully, a negative financial impact will help them see the immorality of their ways.

H/T – Splinter, The Globalist

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Written by Collin Gossel

Collin Gossel is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, New York, but there are nights when he looks up at the stars and wistfully thinks to himself “there’s got to be more out there…” You can catch Collin improvising new musicals every Tuesday night at the Magnet Theater’s Musical Megawatt, or follow his unfiltered thoughts on Twitter and Instagram @CollinGossel.--