For the past year, Wells Fargo has dominated the financial industry headlines.  After their sales-practice scandal and other mishaps went public, Wells Fargo has been working to make things right for their customers.  In doing so, they have managed to continue to re-establish their brand.  In the more recent news, another large financial services institute has captured the headlines.  Bank of America reportedly froze the accounts of a family they had been serving for more than a decade after the company needed proof of citizenship from the couple.

Josh Collins and Jessica Salazar Collins, whose accounts were frozen, say that they recently received a form in the mail requesting that Josh validate his citizenship.  Due to their long-standing relationship with the bank, the couple assumed that the later was some sort of scam and simply disregarded the letter.  When they showed up at their bank branch to complete a transaction, access to their accounts was denied as a result of a red flag appearing next to Josh’s name.  However, the couple was able to quickly resolve the issue as Josh presented his valid driver’s license and the issue was resolved.

At first glance, the issue at hand doesn’t seem like much as it was resolved efficiently and quickly by the bank.  However, upon further investigation, it should be noted that it is not federally required for financial services institutions to get proof of citizenship from their clients.  Rather, these banks only need to obtain and validate a customer’s name, date of birth, address, and social security number in order to create an account.

When questioned further about the issue, Bank of America released the following statement in the Kansas City Star, it’s “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.”

In addition, the bank also told the newspaper that it is their standard practice to acquire about citizenship or citizenship status when customer information is updated or when a new account is created.  Bank of America went on to say that all customers will be receiving those forms in the near future as part of the updates to ensure their citizenship or dual citizenship status.  In a statement provided to KCTV5, a local news station in Kansas City, Bank of America said the following, “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.”

It is likely that this issue went viral as a result of the recent controversy regarding immigrants and immigrant separation.  While the couple was taken back by the bank’s request for citizenship status, the timeline of the resolution was relatively rapid, all things considered.

In his discussion with KCTV5, Collins stated that as a result of the incident, he and his wife would phase out their Bank of America accounts and switch to a local credit union.

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