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Unbelievable crap from Bank of America...

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This page last updated on or about 1-22-09
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The item below began as an email [sent on the evening of 1-16-09] to friends. They urged me to make it public, so here it is (in somewhat edited form).

I've had thousands of dollars in several different kinds of accounts with BOA since 2001.

I basically only had the checking account there for automatic monthly electronic payments to my health insurance company. Rarely writing a check on it-- for I kept a separate checking account at a wholly different bank for paying all my other bills.

My insurance company had insisted on such automatic withdrawals-- hence a big reason for the setup.

I first started doing business with BOA in 2001 in Texas, while working there. My old friend from my supercar days (for whom I use the pseudonym Steve) is a world traveler and executive from way back, and recommended BOA for its nearly ubiquitous ATMs and banking centers nationwide.

When you accept jobs 1000 miles away from your home base like I sometimes do, you absolutely must open a new account with a local bank, if your regular one has no presence in the new locale. I'd done this several times before over the years, with no problem. Including one previous account in Texas itself, some 12 years or so before (though that one likely wasn't BOA; I'm unsure if BOA even existed back then-- at least in Texas).

I was in Texas less than a year this last time, before returning to Tennessee. But I kept the BOA accounts open. Despite it being something of a hassle, since there's no BOA in my hometown. I mainly did it to possibly save the trouble of creating new local bank accounts if I did more job-related travel.

Anyway, whenever my present day BOA checking account crept close to the minimum amount required to avoid maintenance fees, I'd make another deposit into it. The last deposit was about a year ago. But naturally a big chunk was automatically being paid out from the account to my insurance company, every 30 days.

This was a routine which basically went on uninterrupted between late 2001, and early 2009.

And no, I've never bounced a check (or electronic transaction) that I can recall. From any bank account I've ever held, over the past 30 years or so. Mostly because I'd sure hate to pay the penalty fees! Ha, ha.

On 1-16-09 I got a letter from BOA saying they were going to declare my checking account inactive (like I was dead or something), and apparently confiscate it(!) Unless I mailed in a signed form, or showed up soon at a bank in person (the closest is 25 miles of winding rural highway away, here in Tennessee). Or telephoned customer service.

I called customer service, and played phone hell for at least an hour, only to be exasperated by two different people who said the letter was wrong, that calling them couldn't fix it: I'd have to show up in person at a bank. They also told me I wasn't spending money fast enough from the account (about $200 a month is my usual), or depositing money frequently enough. Hence, I would be declared inactive and my cash confiscated (at least that was the gist of the message I perceived!)

I asked them if they really, truly wanted me to take my business to another bank, and they wouldn't say that. But what else was there for me to do? I also said to them "You know you're going to create a run on your bank with letters like this, don't you?" And they gave me a waffled response.

That was all I could get out of them over the phone.

So I immediately drove to my insurance company a couple miles away and switched the automatic withdrawals from my BOA account, to my hometown bank instead. Then I arranged a ride with my aunt to the distant town hosting the closest BOA, since she's far more familiar with the streets than I, plus I still avoid major driving stints due to my slow recovery from eye surgery the past year (even years back, before my cataracts almost completely blinded me, I had trouble finding the BOA in that burg-- even with printed Google directions. It's tricky if you don't live there).

There was a second option: a BOA in the biggest city in these parts. But that was twice as far away. And not much easier to get to directions-wise than the other (plus, in the big city you have to pay for parking, too).

I truthfully wondered if BOA would let me have my money. Wondered if I could call the police and have someone arrested if they refused to close my checking account and give me my cash (I was afraid to accept a check at this point).

Once I arrived, I couldn't do this with a teller-- they referred me to one of the offices instead.

BOA's always been weird about this: making customers sit and wait in the lobby to talk to someone in an office rather than to a teller, for just about everything. To the point I'm unsure why they even have tellers.

The office guy was nice as could be, and seemed troubled too by the letter. I showed it to him, and he checked my accounts, and couldn't see why they'd sent me such a letter. He photo-copied my letter and maybe will be emailing someone about it at my suggestion-- as I emphasized the problem he was going to have if thousands of these things were hitting peoples' mailboxes.

He said he only knew of letters like that being sent in the past to people who had overdue bills with BOA. But he could see for himself I was not one of those.

I got my cash, and less than an hour later had it deposited in my hometown bank account.

One other item: BOA's letter to me mentioned "state law" too in regards to its actions towards declaring my account 'inactive'. So just maybe Tennessee recently took a page from California's playbook, where banks and the state cooperate to seize customer assets by making the legal period required to declare them inactive and unclaimed much shorter than it ever was in the past...

Bottomline: this wholly unnecessary and uncalled for road trip to BOA to save my cash basically shot that day all to hell, in terms of getting much real work done. Thanks BOA! May you get everything you deserve as a corporation!


-- Bank of America: How to Lose $20 Billion of Value in 2 Trading Days by Heidi N. Moore; January 20, 2009

"Bank of America posted its first quarterly loss in 17 years on the heels of the government's midnight announcement that it would help the bank absorb its January 1 purchase of troubled brokerage Merrill Lynch & Co."

-- Top U.S. banks post huge losses as BofA gets aid By Jonathan Stempel and Dan Wilchins 1-16-09

"They figured the safety-deposit box was safer than keeping it under the mattress," Palmer said. "In the case of a lot of citizens, they were wrong, weren't they?"

"California law used to say property was unclaimed if the rightful owner had had no contact with the business for 15 years. But during various state budget crises, the waiting period was reduced to seven years, and then five, and then three. Legislators even tried for one year. Why? Because the state wanted to use that free money."

"It's not just safe-deposit boxes. A British man went to retire and discovered the $4 million in U.S. stock he had been counting on had been seized and sold for $200,000 years earlier -- even though he was in touch with the company about other matters."

-- Not-So-Safe-Deposit Boxes: States Seize Citizens' Property to Balance Their Budgets By ELISABETH LEAMY May 12, 2008

-- Bank Of America Won't Let You Access Your Money Feb 24 2008

-- A Credit Card You Want to Toss Bank of America abruptly notified cardholders in good standing their rates would skyrocket if they didn't opt out fast. Is BofA greedy or needy? By Robert Berner February 7, 2008

-- Your Account Is Never Really Closed At Bank Of America By Ben Popken, Feb 4 2008

-- 77-Year-Old Man Sues Bank Of America Over $10,000 In Undisclosed Fees - Wins By Ben Popken, Sep 24 2007

-- Bank of America loses $50 million from customers upset by false arrest Posted by Mark Frauenfelder, November 15, 2006

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All text above but for obvious quotes copyright © 2009 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.