complaintsBank of America directs fraud complaints to a sales pitch for cruises


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When MaryAnn Torres of Niantic had a complaint about a fraudulent entry on her Bank of America account, she went in to the bank’s Waterford branch, near her former home, to resolve it.

She says she was told they won’t help you anymore with disputed charges face to face in a branch office. You have to call someone.

And the bank officer in Waterford then handed Torres an official looking business card, printed with the Bank of America logo and the local branch address, 68 Boston Post Road.

The card identified the bank’s Electronic Claims Dept. for fraud and unauthorized transactions. It gave a customer service telephone number of (877) 337-4288.

Torres was told to call the number, that no one at the branch could help her in person.

Later, after calling the number on the card, Torres was asked a series of questions, and she answered them, thinking she was talking to Bank of America.

Then she was told she won a free cruise. All she had to do was pay the port fees, $118.

Still thinking she was talking to the Bank of America, she gave them the last four digits of her Social Security number and her debit card number.

Naturally, she was shocked when she learned, by the end of the conversation, that she wasn’t talking to Bank of America at all.

She eventually tracked down the correct number of the bank’s fraud department, where she said they seemed surprised but not especially anxious to root out the reason bank customers were being directed to a questionable phone number.

She said she was told she would have to pay a $5 fee to change her bank card number. As for the new $118 charge for the cruise port fees, they would have to look into it, the person on the line told her.

Maybe she would like the cruise, the bank official on the phone told her, she said.

I will admit to being intrigued when Torres pitched her strange experience to the newsroom. She had documentation of what happened, including an image of the bank card with the number for the sales pitch.

I was also kind of surprised, too, by the reaction I got from Tara Burke, the bank’s public relations contact for the Northeast, when I called to ask what happened.

Burke suggested at first it was probably an old card with a telephone number that had since been given up, presumably picked up by the cruise sellers.

After checking, she called back and said the card apparently had a misprint, nothing, she suggested, to be concerned about.

She couldn’t tell me how many of the cards may have been printed or handed out, how many other bank customers called about it or how old they were. It sounded like no one cared or looked into it.

When I called the number on the card I got a pitch for a medical security alarm — you know, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. I was offered a $100 rebate if I bought it.

I told the person I was calling a number that was supposed to be Bank of America. She told me they get that a lot and would transfer me to the bank. She did transfer me, and the person who answered wanted to sell me a cruise.

One thing I took from the story is that Bank of America, which apparently won’t talk to customers face to face about fraud, does not seem to be taking fraud seriously enough.

You would think a printed card sending customers worried about fraud to a sales pitch at least squarely in the realm of misleading would ring a few alarms instead of producing yawns at the bank.

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