Can Your Bank Ask You to Prove Citizenship?

Kansas Family Has Accounts Frozen by Bank of America After Being Asked About Citizenship Status

Data News Weekly Staff Report

A Kansas family said their bank accounts were frozen by Bank of America after officials ask they prove they were American citizens.

Josh Collins, of Roeland Park, received in June a form letter in the mail from Bank of America that asked a series of personal questions, including if he were an American citizen or had dual citizenship with another country, he told The Kansas City Star.

Collins’ wife, Jessica Salazar Collins, threw out the letter after she and her husband wrote it off as “a scam.”

Collins, who had held an account with Bank of America for 20 years, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Salazar Collins was born in Kansas City, Missouri, tracing her roots back in the U.S. two generations, as her great-grandfather emigrated from Mexico.

Then last Tuesday, the family found they couldn’t access their money.

“They only do that to people’s accounts for people trying to flee the country,” Collins told KCTV. “We’re not criminals. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

Collins said he called the bank and was told the account was frozen because he hadn’t responded to their inquiry about his citizenship status.

When the account remained frozen the next day, Salazar Collins called and was told the card had been stolen.

“So, at that point, we decide to go into the physical bank and it took about 15 minutes, but the first question they asked me was, ‘Are you a citizen?'” he said. “Again? ‘Yes.’ And then they wanted to know if I had dual citizenship.”

Collins showed the bank his driver’s license, and his account was ultimately unfrozen, but his automatic bill payments had been deleted, he 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 as required by law and regulation,” Bank of America said in a statement obtained by KCTV.

“This is not unique to Bank of America. This type of outreach is nothing new and the information must be up to date. Therefore we periodically reach out to customers, which is what we did in this case.”

Bank of America said it plans to reach out to all customers to verify their information and if they do not hear back, they as a last resort “may restrict the account until we can confirm it is in compliance with regulatory requirements.”

The Salazar Collins family said it plans to move its business to another bank.

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