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Beyond Robo-Signing: 3 Other Ways Bank of America Is Screwing Americans

As outraged as Americans are about robo-signing (and they should be), the use of foreclosure mills doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of Bank of America's dastardly deeds.

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2. Sneakily ratcheting up fees on the 99%

As I wrote earlier this month , Bank of America is one of the mega banks that's quietly ratcheting up fees, especially for its lower-income customers, to compensate for new regulations that were designed to protect those very individuals.

This is an especially ballsy move for Bank of America, since it was BofA's proposed $5 monthly debit card fee that incited so much consumer outrage last fall. And yet, mere months later, the bank has announced a fee "overhaul" that will result in customers paying up to $25 per month for a basic checking account.

Maddeningly, the bank is most focused on increasing fees for low-income consumers - Americans who may have trouble maintaining a minimum account balance or who do not have multiple bank services, such as a mortgage. In addition, these customers may soon have less banking opportunities in general, as Bank of America, among other big banks, plans to shift its resources to cater more to "up markets" that make the bank more money than less-wealthy communities.

3. Exploiting the unemployed to rake in fees

When South Carolina signed a deal with Bank of America to distribute unemployment benefits via prepaid debit cards, chances are the state was not actively trying to screw its unemployed citizens. But that is exactly what happened, because Bank of America took advantage of its contract with the state to exploit unemployed South Carolinians by charging many of them hefty fees to access their benefits.

Huffington Post's Janell Ross reported late last year that citizens who live in towns without Bank of America branches - and there are many such individuals in South Carolina - are forced to either drive to another town to access their benefits (something many cannot afford to do) or pay a fee for withdrawing money from a non-BofA ATM. One woman profiled in Ross' article, Shawna Busby, had to choose between making a 100-mile round trip drive to Columbia to access her benefits or pay up. Busby estimated that she had paid $350 in fees to withdraw the benefits that she was legally owed - money she desperately needs for her family since she is, of course, unemployed.

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Of course, these are only a few of the ways Bank of America is screwing over the citizens whose taxpayers kept the bank afloat during the financial crisis the bank helped create. And it is only small consolation that BofA claims to be suffering financially these days, because, as Taibbi notes, the bank seems to have plenty of money to go around for bonuses and compensation:

Bank of America didn't pay a dime in federal taxes last year. Or the year before. In fact, they got a $1 billion refund last year. They claimed it was because they had pretax losses of $5.4 billion in 2010. They paid out $35 billion in bonuses and compensation that year. You do the math.

As for the $26 billion settlement that Bank of America and other big banks got slapped with? It let the banks off the hook for its robo-signing misadventures, and may not even be properly enforced by the government. Even if it is, it will be "woefully inadequate to address the wider fraud that went on in creating and pooling mortgages."

On that note, I leave you with three simple words: Move. Your. Money.

Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to Change.org, The L Magazine and Time Out New York. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here.

 
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