Category Archives: Bank of America

Lacking Grace


I got my Bank of America credit card bill last week. I had had a balance of $54.01, and I paid it off. Or so I thought. I get the bill and I have a balance of $1.50. I figured that, damn, I must have miscalculated the payment, maybe transposed some digits. Nope. I’m now being given the privilege of paying a buck and a half per month as a “Minimum financial charge.” I did not notice this in the ream of papers that BoA had sent me recently to keep me informed of my “protections” in light of the new credit card legislation, before which they hiked my credit card rate. (Which is only one of the reasons I always pay it off in full.)

Now, I never actually applied for a Bank of America card. It’s in my possession because BoA, in its acquisitive phase, bought the bank I DID have a credit card with. So I’m not feeling a great deal of loyality for these folks. Still, I have over a quarter of my credit with them. And, as I’ve noted, all of it available. Well, except for $1.50.

Then last weekend, I watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from earlier in the week. His guest was Jim Wallis, the editor in chief of Sojourners magazine, which is a “progressive Christian commentary on faith, politics and culture. It seeks to build a movement of spirituality and social change.”

Wallis, who was touting his book Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street, explained that the bonuses paid out this year – $150 billion from six banks – could “erase the budget gap in all 50 states”, or prevent or postpone foreclosures until 2012. But these bonuses are a symptom of a larger problem: the erosion of underlying values. He says “we won’t get an economic recovery without a moral recovery” as well.

But what really struck me was his notion that the banks, such as BoA, had been offered grace by the US government, and by extension, by the American people. The response by the large financial institutions, Wallis noted, has been a distinct lack of grace. So, Jim Wallis fired his bank, Bank of America.

With BoA nickle and diming (and six quartering) its customers like that, I can do nothing but the same. Goodbye, Bank of America.

Watch the clip here.

“Higher standards,” indeed.

ROG

Hello, It's NOT Me

I have a CitiBank credit card. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear this week that information on nearly four million CitiGroup customers was lost. Lost by UPS. Lost in transit to one of the credit reporting bureaus. Oops! I don’t know that this particular boo boo will affect me personally, but it does create a certain dis-ease.

There have been several companies, including large banks and retailers, who have announced that information about customers or employees, including credit-card information, had been compromised. As I understand it, this does not necessarily reflect an increase in these types of events, but is rather in response to a California law requiring notification to customers of a security breach that could potentially allow for identity theft.

If you’re not from California, you might say, “So what?”

So this: with about a sixth of the country’s population residing in the Golden State, it was easier for Bank of America to admit last February that it lost computer backup tapes containing personal information publicly, rather than parcing out which of the 1.2 million charge cards that were potentially compromised had a California connection.

But what to do about the larger problem of identity theft?

One thing everyone should do is get a FREE copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting companies once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report.

Now, I haven’t taken advantage of this because the free reports have been phased in during a nine-month period, starting on the West Coast last December 1, to the Midwest on March 1, to the South on June 1. It won’t be until September 1 that free reports will be accessible to everybody, including those in CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, N J, NY!, NC, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV, DC, PR, and all U.S. territories.

There’s a toll-free number to order the report: 877-322-8228, or by completing the request form on the FTC site and mailing it. The instructions read like this:
“When you order, you need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.” In other words, the FTC doesn’t want a tool designed to prevent ID theft to become a tool to PERPETRATE ID theft; clever bureaucrats they are.

I did a presentation on identity theft a couple years ago at a conference. I don’t think it went as well as it should have, partly because, frankly, a lot of the participants knew as much as I did. But, FWIW, here are some recommended other tools if you think your credit has been compromised:

  • Putting a fraud alert on your credit reports (companies should call you to verify your identity whenever they check your credit report with the intention of opening an account in your name or making any changes to an existing one.), at all three credit bureaus — Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289). And do so every 90 days.
  • Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. I utilize this myself.
  • Tell your beneficiaries, since the Social Security numbers of the beneficiaries on your 401(k) account or life insurance policy might be compromised as well.
  • Change your bank account numbers.
  • Insist on identifiers other than your Social Security number. I’ve had testy conversations with health care providers who insist on my Social Security number when is not my health ID number. My insurance company allowed for non-SS ID numbers a couple years ago, and I was one of a relatively few who took advantage, but as of this year, all the ID numbers are bizarre alphanumerics, which suits me fine.
  • Opt out of pre-approved credit offers by calling the Automated Credit Reporting Industry (888-567-8688).
    There are some others, but you get the picture.

    It seems to me that this type of white-collar crime is finally getting its due share of contempt.