Saturday, February 07, 2009

Take the Money & Run

With the shady practices employed by Bank of America, I'm frankly not sure how they've gotten into the financial trouble that they have. They should be in great shape. They sure know how to take the money & run.

Of course, the latest news of the dastardly deeds of BOA is the attempt to collect the credit card debt from the son whose mother had died, with an outstanding balance due on her credit card. Despite the fact that a family member is not legally obligated to pay this bill, the BOA representative tried to mislead the son when he called to report that his mother had died. The rep also suggested that the son had a moral, if not legal, duty to pay. Finally, he added that the financial crisis was due, in part, to defaults such as this. As TPM reports, How Theresa Hatt Caused The Financial Crisis:

The rep's apparent intention, as Kelleher described it, was to mislead him into believing that he was obligated -- at first legally, then, failing that, morally -- to cover his mother's debt (which, in any case, was not large: she had had a $1000 limit on her card). Of course, Kelleher was sophisticated enough to know that's not true. But how many other less savvy callers in similar situations, he wondered, might respond to the rep's breezy "how are you planning to take care of her balance?," with a confused "I guess I'll mail in a check"?
The clear impression was that this was part of the routine collection practices engaged in by BOA, which Zackary Roth of TPM had confirmed by a former rep. As to these sleazy practices, he noted:
Bank of America and its competitors have already taken billions in taxpayer dollars. So it seems logical to insist on a similar set of public interest conditions -- and the industry's range of deceptive and rapacious lending practices would be a natural place to start.
Good luck with that! That's just standard operating procedure for these guys.

I'm having my own battle with BOA over a student checking account that my daughter tried to open at school in Miami. BOA is big in South Florida, and they have ATMs on campus, so she wanted to open an account with them. She first tried to open an account on-line and shortly after that, the Bank sent reps to the campus, to sign students up. My daughter told the rep that she had already opened an account, but he said to sign up for a new one with him. Of course, not knowing any better, she did. And, surprise of surprises, he gave her false & misleading information.

She then received a letter from BOA saying that they were closing her accounts. After several calls to "customer service," she was told they had closed the accounts because of suspected fraud (since she opened more than one account). First of all, I didn't know that it was illegal to have more than one account with a Bank. Second, although she tried to explain that the rep misled her about opening the second account, they brushed her off & advised her that it could affect her credit in the future.

When she came home for break, we went to a local bank office & explained the situation. The Bank manager took the information and said he would have the account re-instated. At the end of the holidays before she went back to school, we went back to BOA and we told that the account was re-activated. So, she deposited two checks, totalling $250. A few days later, she received her debit card. The next day, she received another letter saying that the account had been closed.

A few days after that, she received a letter stating that the Bank had confidential information that the checks would not be honored. I checked my account & the money I had given her was deducted the day after it was deposited. I just confirmed that the other check had been paid as well. So this accusatory letter was just wrong.

We tried to call the local Bank manager & were told that she had to speak to someone in "corporate." Several calls later & she was told that she'd have to go back to a local branch office to have the account re-instated, but that the account was closed and the money was being refunded. I said I wanted nothing to do with such a bad bank, so I wouldn't allow her to have an account there.

A few weeks later, she received a check from BOA in the amount of $190, stating that it was the full amount in her account at the time it was closed. What happened to the other $60? No explanation given -- then or since. A 24% charge for a student account that she was never able to access, after holding the money for three weeks before refunding it?

Of course, now that I've confirmed that they did in fact take the money from the other check, I certainly don't plan to let this one go. I will make a fuss, write a few letters (including to her college, suggesting that they considering switching on-campus banks), but I know that it won't matter in the end. That's the problem with BIG Banks, BIG business. They don't have to be responsive. There aren't as many choices, so you're stuck & they don't care.

Google "Bank of America Sucks" & you find 394,000 hits.

BOA stands for Bunch of Assholes.

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