I used to stand up to my radio and T.V. for the Butt Pirates at BofA whenever either one fired some flaming, populist rant about overdraft fees. “I remember when I was in college,” I’d shout at a commentator or panelist, “if I wrote a bad check, the bank charged me ten bucks each time they tried to clear it, and they tried clearing it THREE TIMES! In the EIGHTIES! When ten bucks really meant something! Oh, and you know how they used to let me know? SNAIL MAIL! Three days after they tried to clear the check for the third time, I’d get a piece of paper with a terse ‘courtesy’ notice that they’d already taken me for thirty bucks on a check for $3.87 for FOOD! There were no electronic statements, no email, no online banking, no alerts. We have all those things now. How on earth does somebody overdraft a checking account without knowing about it?”
Well – I just found out how. And now I’m back to hating Bank of America. And I’m trying hard to rid myself of them, like a booger on my finger. But like a booger on my finger, I just can’t shake them off.
If I didn’t have one remaining shred of self-esteem (however unjustified, in the opinion of my wife), I might be convinced that BofA is just that much smarter than me, that I, through irresponsible management of my personal life and finances, deserved to perish financially at their hands. Banking and investing these days is a contest, and I’d lost.
They are just so damn clever.
How’d they do it? Read on, and learn what it takes to survive and thrive in 21st century banking landscape:
I get a call on my cell from some phonebot. The synthesized voice says it’s calling from The Fraud Department about some suspicious charges against my Debit Card. The Fraud Department needs me to accept or reject the charges, which I can do so very conveniently from my cell phone by pressing ‘1’ to hear each charge, then after each charge press ‘1’ to accept or ‘2’ to reject it.
Now here’s where I lost in this battle of will with Bank of America: Instead of doing the smart thing, instead of pausing or hanging up the phone to give myself an opportunity to investigate the charges, I like an IDIOT confirm each of the three charges is legitimate. Because they were. Each was a regular, monthly debit from my account for electronic billpay. My clue that something was up should have been exactly that. These were recurring charges, and I knew it. They were absolutely not fraudulent. Why Bank of America should suddenly suspect them as fraudulent was a mystery I assumed was too trivial for me to investigate. “Screwups,” I muttered, and snapped my phone shut.
Approximately 4 days later, my wife is holding my bank statement, asking testily about some funny charges against my checking account. “Hm,” I reasonably hm, “let me have a look.”
It’s like the executives at BofA went to school in Nigeria! Three overdraft charges assessed against my account at the obscene, loan-shark rates they are permitted to charge now (thanks to having bought legislation from their elected representatives in D.C.).
There was never any fraud, never any hint of fraud. But BofA used fraud as the cover to get me to do something I virtually never do: Overdraft an account.
They’re Bank of America. So just bend over and take it.