I’ve been a Bank of America customer since 2013. I chose Bank of America because at the time, I was living in North Carolina (BofA HQ) and I knew I’d be leaving later that year to go to college in Detroit, and I wanted to make sure wherever I was going I’d be close enough to a branch office. Through those first 7 years, I had a great experience with Bank of America. Their mobile app made everything simple and the staff in their branches (particularly in Detroit) were always so friendly and helpful. I even went to the extent to recommend Bank of America to my mom who’s bank was undergoing a complicated merger, and she eventually took my advice and moved her money into the BofA ecosystem.
In late November 2020 I received an email with an invitation to apply for a graphic designer position. Attached was what seemed like a legitimate job posting, for a position that fit my skillset well. I researched the company in question and confirmed that it was a legitimate business, called ABAC Therapeutics and began corresponding with who I thought was a hiring manager for the company. Over the following 2 weeks I received more details about the job and was even interviewed for the position. A week after the interview I received word that I had been accepted for the position and I was sent an official offer letter including official company letterhead and using the real company’s CEO’s name and signature.
After signing they told me they would be sending me money to purchase a work laptop from their equipment supplier. I received checks and I was a bit skeptical but when the funds appeared in my account a day after depositing them it seemed to confirm their legitimacy and so I sent the money on to the equipment supplier. In total I sent $1,920 of the $2,900 they intended to take from me. Days later the money from the checks disappeared from my account and in their place were ~$35 ‘chargeback’ fees levied on my account for each check, totaling over $70 in addition to the money that had already been taken. At this point I was panicking because my account was overdrawn and it was starting to set in that something was very wrong. The scammer at first tried to reassure me that this was just a temporary setback in order to get me to send more money, but when they realized I was on to them, they went silent.
Reporting the Fraud:
Realizing I had been scammed and that the scammers had my account number I immediately made an appointment at my local branch. This was around mid-December. I showed them what had happened, all the evidence I had collected. The ‘relationship specialist’ I spoke with informed me that it was very unlikely that I’d be getting any of the money back from the scammers, but that he would file a fraud case with Bank of America that I should expect to be resolved in 45–90 days and get all those fees returned, as I was clearly the victim in this scenario. He even double-checked with his manager to make sure he was informing me correctly.
Given that my account was clearly compromised from the scam it was apparent to both me and the banker that I needed a new account and the compromised account would need to be closed. I opened a new account and left the old one open until the end of the week to collect one last direct deposit from work before closing the account for good.
The banker also informed me to immediately report the incident to the local police. I filed a report and the officer told me to make sure the bank reimbursed any fees they levied on my account and I happily told them that Bank of America had assured me that that would happen.
Following Bank of America’s instructions:
I followed the instruction of my Branch rep and waited for the fees to reappear in my account. After 45 days, I was frustrated but decided to wait until the full 90 days the rep had told me it would take to resolve the fraud case. During this time, I received exactly 0 updates from Bank of America regarding the status of my fraud claim.
When March rolled around and I hadn’t received reimbursement, I went back to speak with the same Branch rep. I told him I hadn’t been reimbursed yet or gotten status updates, looked through the system he said the case had been marked as resolved since early January, but that he wasn’t sure why I hadn’t received reimbursement yet.
He called corporate to try to figure out how that money can be returned to me, and why it hadn’t yet. He was on hold for 15 minutes while I sat there so he told me I should probably just leave and that I didn’t have to worry, he would call me when the issue was taken care of.
I got a call a while later from him, but instead of good news it was to inform me that the corporate office had told him that the fees would not be returned, because technically I was the one to deposit the checks, so the burden of verifying authenticity falls on the fraud victim, not the bank. He told me I may have better luck if I try and call the fraud department myself. I asked him for a case number for the fraud case and he emailed me back that a case number was not necessary, that the reps would be easily able to look it up on my account.
I called and immediately was prompted for a case number. I would explain the situation, they would often have trouble finding the incident since the fees were charged to the account that had been compromised, and sensibly closed. I’d eventually be transferred, prompted for a case number, explain that I was denied one, explain the full history of the situation, get transferred, repeat. One thing I noticed is there seems to be no way for employees transferring calls to communicate to each other, even when working in the same department. I’ve already spent 4+ hours in Bank of America phone trees in 2021 and every time I was transferred I had to re-explain everything going back to the original scam to whoever the next rep was.
Eventually I got to someone who must’ve been a bit higher in the hierarchy and she blamed the branch rep for misinforming and that Bank of America’s policy doesn’t allow check chargeback fees to be reimbursed regardless of whether they were levied on the victim. I retorted that by that logic, it seemed like it was in Bank of America’s best interest that as many of their customers as possible fell victim to these kinds of scams. After all, $70+ worth of fees levied to the accounts of each fraud victim must add up to a pretty sizeable revenue stream for the Bank. She went silent for a while and I worked out that she was discussing the situation with her manager.
When she came back on the line, she said that the Bank had agreed to pay me $47 in order to close the case. I was disappointed that they were unwilling to reimburse me the full amount, but at this point I was so exhausted from fighting this case that I was willing to accept that. I accepted the offer and she told me I could expect that money in my account within the coming days.
Weeks later, still nothing. I started with a live chat in my web browser to inquire about the promised $47, but was given a number I should call for answers. I call the number and the person who answers was confused because she said it was an employee line. I get transferred and explain my situation, the next rep says she can actually see that there was an attempt made to reimburse me but that it hadn’t been completed. I got transferred. Explained to the next person the conversation I just had and that
The next rep was shocked that my case had not gotten resolved yet and she saw that attempts had been made to initiate my reimbursement, but that the issue that kept coming up is that the account is no longer active. She said she was going to try a few things to get me my money in a way that the system would accept, but she made clear it was a matter of how I get my money not if. She said she was waiting for a manager to come by and I waited with her for about half an hour, she would occasionally come back on the line to tell me she was still trying solutions and waiting for her manager.
Then, inexplicably I’m transferred to a representative in a different department who is as confused as I am about the transfer. So, I have to start again at the beginning and explain the whole situation again. She’s adamant that there’s no way I could be reimbursed. I try to explain that I’ve already gotten past this hurdle and the Bank has already agreed to pay me $47 (not a lot for a company holding $2 trillion in assets to make good on). But she just kept repeating the same thing: “We can’t help you because the account is closed.”
I called back to the Fraud Dept again since just minutes earlier it was clear that their position was that in order to put out this fire, it was a lot easier to pay $47 of the originally promised $72 than to go back on their word (multiple times). The representative told me the same line, that because I had closed the account, nothing could be done. While trying to explain that I’ve only been following Bank of America’s instructions on this, the call keeps entering ‘hold’ for 3 seconds at a time, the music cuts on briefly and then she’ll start again with “Hello?”. This happens 6 more times in the next couple minutes and I ask her why she keeps doing that and she said the system was broken and they don’t know how to prevent it from constantly interrupting our conversation.
I’m not normally someone to make a big deal about the quality of service I get. I don’t have crazy high standards, and I didn’t expect Bank of America to make all my problems disappear either. I lost nearly $2,000 to scammers but it’s the $72 Bank of America took from me that hurts the most. It seemed like there was an understanding that they owed me money, but that if they stall me long enough, then I might get frustrated and give up.
This could’ve been an easy slam dunk for Bank of America from a customer service perspective. If they had just paid out the $47 that they promised, I probably would’ve grumbled about it for a couple days and forgotten about it. Instead, this relatively small amount of money has enraged me beyond belief, to the point that I felt it necessary to publicize my story.