Outrage as Bank of America freezes assets of American-born family without warning after demanding they prove their citizenship

  • American-born Josh Collins discovered his bank account was frozen on Tuesday 
  • Bank of America told him that it was because he hadn’t confirmed his citizenship status after receiving a questionnaire asking if he held US or dual citizenship
  • He thought the from was a scam, since he’d been banking with them for 20 years
  • It took two days and a visit to the bank before his account was unfrozen  
  • Bank of America said that all clients will eventually receive the questionnaire 

 

Bank of America froze a Kansas family’s bank accounts after demanding to know if they were American citizens.

Josh Collins, of Roeland Park, Kansas said he received a form letter in the mail from Bank of America in June, asking him a variety of personal information questions, including whether he is an American citizen or has dual citizenship with another country.

Josh was born in Wichita, Kansas. His wife, Jessica Salazar Collins, whose great-grandfather came to America from Mexico, was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri.

Josh Collins and his wife, Jessica Salazar Collins (with their children), were shocked to discover that Bank of America had frozen their bank account without warning on July 24

Josh Collins and his wife, Jessica Salazar Collins (with their children), were shocked to discover that Bank of America had frozen their bank account without warning on July 24

It turned out the account was frozen because Josh didn't answer a letter asking about his US and dual citizenship status, because he thought it was a scam

 

It turned out the account was frozen because Josh didn’t answer a letter asking about his US and dual citizenship status, because he thought it was a scam

Jessica told The Kansas City Star that she threw out the letter, thinking the letter was some kind of scam, since Josh had been banking with the company for the past 20 years.

On July 24, however, the Collins family realized that it wasn’t a scam — Bank of America had frozen their account, cutting off their ability to access their cash, without any warning.

Josh told KCTV that when his card was declined, he called the bank and was told that the account was frozen because he hadn’t responded to the letter he’d received about his citizenship status.

The next day, when he discovered that his bank account hadn’t been unfrozen, Jessica called the bank, only to be told that the cards were lost or stolen, which wasn’t true.

Both Josh and Jessica were born in the US. Josh banked with the company for the past 20 years

Both Josh and Jessica were born in the US. Josh banked with the company for the past 20 years.

Bank of America said that all clients will be receiving the citizenship questionnaire and that it is being sent so that the bank can maintain 'compliance with regulatory requirements'

Bank of America said that all clients will be receiving the citizenship questionnaire and that it is being sent so that the bank can maintain ‘compliance with regulatory requirements’

Josh and Jessica then went into the bank to speak with someone in person.

‘It took about 15 minutes, but the first question they asked me was, “Are you a citizen?” Josh said, adding that they wanted to know if he was a dual citizen, as well.

Josh’s bank accounts were ultimately unfrozen Wednesday, after he showed the bank his driver’s license. In the meantime, all of his autopay bill payments were deleted.

‘They only do that to people’s accounts for people trying to flee the country,’ Josh said, about having his account frozen, adding that ‘We’re not criminals. We didn’t do anything wrong.’

In a statement issued Friday, obtained by the Kansas City Star, Bank of America said, ‘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, such as country of citizenship and proof of U.S. residency. This type of outreach is nothing new.’

The bank added, ‘This information must be up to date and therefore we periodically reach out to customers, which is what we did in this case.’

A Bank of America spokeswoman said if customers don’t respond to the form letter, the bank may decide to ‘restrict the account’ until they can confirm that the account holder is ‘in compliance with regulatory requirements’ and not a target of identity thieves.

The spokesperson said that all Bank of America clients will eventually receive the citizenship questionnaire.

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