Bank of America Complaint - Spurious Overdraft Fees
VISALIA, CALIFORNIA -- I'm a disabled senior citizen attempting to get by on a $733 a month Social Security disability stipend. I have also been a Bank of America customer since first going on Social Security, with my SS checks going directly to the bank.
I have used BofA's free on line bill paying service for a couple of years or more, with no problems up until now. This time when I paid my power bill to the Southern California Edison Company, somewhere between the time I sat down to make my little $55.84 payment and the time the bank's computer delivered the money to SCE it had lost a decimal point and the power company actually received $5584.00. I am absolutely sure I did not leave out the decimal myself and that it was dropped due to a glitch. But even if I am the culprit in that instance, it does not explain why they refused to correct the problem when I notified them about it.
For one thing, why did no flags go up at the bank, which had been handling my little $700 a month payday to payday account which had, for several years, never contained more than $1000 at any given time when I suddenly had a credit against that account for five times that amount? Shouldn't that have told them that something was amiss here?
Instead I get an email this morning (11/7) stating that there was a "problem" with my on line bill pay and to check my internal mail account. I almost ignored it because it looked like another one of the phishing scams where the perpetrators pretend to be BofA that come in my mail from time to time. For some reason, I decided to take this one seriously but by signing into my account normally, not by clicking the link in the email.
On the way through the web site to do this I looked at my bill pay payment record and saw immediately what had happened.
I fired off an email reply immediately telling them that someone has dropped a decimal point somewhere and that the actual amount of the payment was $55.84. No answer. These people had alerted me via email to a problem gave me instructions on what to do to take care of the problem, and I had promptly followed those instructions by explaining the true state of affairs. That should have been the end of it and at the very MOST, I should MAYBE have had a single overdraft fee although I still contend that they could just as easily have flubbed this one as me.
But a couple of hours later I get another email alert with the same information with an acknowledgment of my own message plus the notification that they will try again to extract the money from my account, even though they now cannot claim not to know full well that the money will not be there.
I replied once more also with the same info I had provided earlier and asked them please, do not try to debit my account for the spurious amount again.
Realizing I wasn't getting anywhere by email. I then called customer service on the phone and after wading through all the phone bots, I finally got to a human only to be told that there was nothing to be done about it, that they were going to make a total of three attempts to get their money out of my account, even though they knew it was not going to be there, before they canceled the payment request and that I would be charged an insufficient funds fee for every attempt they made.
This in spite of the fact that I had already explained to them what had happened three times now.
They knew full well that I was NOT going to put almost $5600 in that account to cover a computer error, just like they knew full well that the payment was not supposed to have BEEN $5584.
I told them that since I had notified them of the mistake as soon as I got their first email alert (this morning, the payment was made yesterday) they should not be making the second and third attempts and they said too bad but that was the way their system worked and that they couldn't stop it even if they wanted to, (and they obviously didn't want to) and that I would be charged the three fees for insufficient funds.
This was confirmed by yet another email a few minutes later. ONE overdraft fee would have been a lot easier to swallow if they had simply fixed the problem after being made aware of it but they are continuing to debit the account in order to charge me the maximum possible after they had been informed of the mistake. That dog don't hunt where I'm from.
To someone trying to exist of less than $800 a month, $100 skimmed right off the top is devastating. And multiply this by Lord knows how many other people who have made this or a similar mistake or worse yet, been caught in a trap of BofA's own making? Quite a number if you surf the Internet's consumer affairs sites.
All BofA cares about is collecting their fees and they'll stoop to outright defiance of court orders (re: Social Security/Disability payments) to do so. Well actually, that and, after getting me to forego a paper statement every month to save a tree, sending me 5-6 pieces of junk mail every week trying to sell me 15 different kinds of insurance or get me to accept a subprime predatory credit card. (They also managed to "SELL" me one of those phony insurance policies over the phone through some sleazy telemarketer which I didn't want and didn't agree to and which they have been duly deducting $12 a month from my account for a year or so now.
Refuse to cancel the policy and claim they can't stop the deduction without the permission of the insurance company but they can't tell me how to get hold of the insurance company either. Another story).
This is going to cost them a customer of course as I will be closing the account as soon as it's all straightened out and I can be sure they won't be coming after me for something else later.
I seriously doubt they look at little senior citizen accounts like mine as anything significant but there's no way I'll give these people another dime and will instead be going with a local bank here in town that at least makes the effort to pretend to value my business.
One hundred plus dollars (I'm assuming that the fee will be the same as a standard $35 overdraft fee but it may even be more) is a month's worth of groceries for someone in my position. It's the copays on my cardiac and respiratory system medications. It's gasoline for my car for a month to get my 5 year old grandson the 8 miles to and from Kindergarten on a daily basis. It can even be the difference BETWEEN those groceries and those medications.
But to BofA, it's just another $105 in their pockets multiplied by whatever number of senior citizens and whatever number of poor working clods they can do this to.
One single consumer web site, www.consumeraffairs.com , lists literally dozens of complaints similar to mine ( http://www.consumeraffairs.com/finance/bofa.html ) and there are other consumer web sites citing many of the same scams so it is not an isolated case. They appear to have lost one class action a few years back for confiscating people's social security and disability income to satisfy their lust for dubious fees ( http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/bofa.html ) yet this is exactly what they're doing to me now so they haven't even been slowed down by it. Their arrogance is simply amazing.
In fact, if anything they've become even MORE creative in figuring out how to scam their customers. They were even cited by members of congress in regard to a number of their predatory practices in this regard and named as one of the "big three" predatory financial institutions several months ago when the government was pretending to take an interest in protecting consumers from predators like this.
These people simply do things like this on a regular basis and they get away with it because their victims are the small and the weak with no resources of their own and nobody else cares.
It would be nice if something could be about these vultures stealing their customers blind on the flimsiest of pretexts, especially the elderly with no resources with which to fight back.
It's simply a grown up version of a schoolyard bully, taking lunch money because he can, from someone who can't fight back. They are being allowed to penalize people excessively for either an honest mistake which is then compounded by the bank not allowing for a correction of the alleged mistake immediately upon discovery or, quite frankly, a "mistake" on the part of the bank itself with no chance for any kind of defense by the customer or any effort to determine what happened. It's like being sentenced before your case ever comes to trial.
Either way, Bank of America, the WalMart of the banking industry, is not an institution whose hands the less affluent and the working class in this country need rummaging around in their pockets.
I'd like my hundred or so bucks back of course, but what I'm most interested in is the name of an organization or agency where I might be able to get some legal assistance and/or file a legal complaint against this predatory company if for nothing more than their continued confiscation of Social Security and disability benefits and maybe see them stopped from preying on seniors and poor people in this manner once and for all.
I have transcripts of the email exchange and their tacit admission that I contacted them in plenty of time to head off the imposition of three of these overdraft fees on this particular transaction and their outright refusal to do so. These concur with and confirm what I was also told on the phone.
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