Bank of America Accused of Freezing Assets of Suspected Non-Citizens

Customers report being locked out of accounts over bank questions about residency status.

bank of america
Pedestrians walk by a Bank of America office on July 16, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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In recent months, Bank of America has faced numerous claims that it is freezing or threatening to lock customers’ accounts after first asking about their legal status in the United States, reports the Sacramento Bee. Earlier this summer, the Washington Post reported that multiple customers had been locked out of their accounts after the bank questioned whether they were U.S. citizens or dual citizens.

The Sacramento Bee spoke to several people, like Saeed Moshfegh, who had their accounts frozen. Moshfegh, an Iranian immigrant getting his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Miami said he couldn’t access his account recently, and that when he went to Bank of America’s local branch near his home, he was told the documents he provided to establish his identity were not acceptable. But Moshfegh, who recently married an American and has lived in the U.S. for seven years, maintains that his forms were correct and that the bank had previously deemed them sufficient.

According to Stephanie Collins, a spokesperson for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal agency that supervises branch banking, proof of U.S. citizenship is not required to open a bank account in this country. Banks are only required to identify and report suspicious transactions and maintain and update customer information, and they have not been ordered by the OCC to collect any new information about customers. For its part, the bank says it hasn’t changed any of its customer information gathering policies.

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