Side Note

If Bank of America thinks you’re not a U.S. citizen, say goodbye to your bank account

This week in dystopian nightmares: Bank of America is locking customers out of their accounts after demanding proof of U.S. citizenship.

Saeed Moshfegh, an Iranian Ph.D candidate at the University of Miami, had been studying legally in the U.S. for seven years when Bank of America froze his account over concerns about his immigration status.

According to a report by the Miami Herald, the company required Moshfegh to provide proof of legal residency every six months to continue to use his Bank of America account, which he begrudgingly did. But last month the bank refused to accept Moshfegh’s paperwork, which he claims was correct given his status as an active student enrolled in a U.S. university.

“This bank doesn’t know how the immigration system works, so they didn’t accept my document,” Moshfegh told the Miami Herald in an interview. Moshfegh’s accounts were frozen and his funds were inaccessible, regardless of the fact that he was a legal U.S. resident and had even recently married an American. After multiple conversations with Bank of America employees, Moshfegh was allowed to withdraw his money, but the account was shuttered.

He’s far from alone. Multiple U.S. citizens have reported experiencing similar treatment from Bank of America.

It usually starts with a letter. A thin envelope filled with black and white printed text on cheap-ish paper, a scammy-looking mailer that that usually goes right in the trash. The logo reads Bank of America, but it’s ever-so-slightly off. The contents aren’t much better: What’s your Social Security number? it asks. Your address? Do you have any offshore accounts? Are you a U.S. citizen? Do you have dual citizenship? Information that it seems like a bank should either already know or isn’t actually entitled to.

Most recipients, like Kansas native Josh Collins or Tennessee-born David Lewis, throw it away, dismissing the piece of mail as a mere scam, only to find their bank accounts frozen due to citizenship issues months later. Though both men were eventually given back access to their accounts after confirming their status as legal U.S. residents, their experiences speak to an alarming trend.

“It’s not the business of Bank of America to shut down someone’s account,” Moshfegh told the Miami Herald. “Immigration officers are different from Bank of America—with a bank, I would like to feel respect…[and be treated] how they treat other customers. But they treat me as an alien.”