The Bank has Taken (almost) all of my Money

I’ll be brief: I use a very large and well-known online-only bank as my long-term savings due to their better rates. I’ve been depositing and depositing money in it for years, and today I needed to get to a large portion of it.

But it turns out that:

  1. They put a “fraud hold” on my account due to the fact I linked it to a bank which was a joint account, and

  2. They happily allowed me to keep depositing money, but I cannot change, withdraw from, transfer from, or close my account, and

  3. Even though the fraud hold has been in place for nearly half a year, no one at the bank communicated this to me by post, e-mail, or phone, and

  4. Their customer service agent freely admitted that it was against their policies to contact people whose accounts were frozen, because “what if you were being held under duress.” Under duress for 5 months???

After numerous lies and mis-statements and runarounds, it seems that they are going to refuse via delay and redirection and still further delay and still further buck-passing to return my lawfully earned and owned money to me. Reading complaints online from others reveals that this is almost typical hilarity with this crappy bank.

This is nearly all my cash savings in my life, and I’m a little scared.

My questions, arranged so they are cast in general terms:

  1. Given that they are an online bank and do not have a brick-and-mortar address in State X, can the Attorney General of State X do anything to help me? Or do I have to contact the AG of the State in which they (the bank) are incorporated?

  2. The FDIC has a complaint form (, but do they have jurisdiction over complaints like this?

  3. Given that they are an online bank etc., without a brick and mortar residence within State X, can a resident of State X take the bank to small claims court in State X?

I know in some cases companies have to have action brought against them only in their home State, but I thought things like online FDIC-insured banks had different regulations?

I know nothing about banking, but I am curious about whether or not they have ever sent you anything via the U.S. Postal Service. If so, maybe they can help you in some way under federal “postal fraud” laws. I am not an attorney. I think you may need one.

What I would do is fire all salvos. File a complaint with your AG. File a complaint with the FDIC. File a small claims case. At least one of these will make the bank focus on your situation, draw the right conclusion and do the right thing. Importantly, there’s no legitimate scenario where they get to keep the money. It’s just a question of whether you get it or the state.

Is there a reason you are protecting them by not revealing the name of the bank? I’d like to know the name of such a crappy institution so I can be sure to avoid them myself.

You might also let them you that you’ll be contacting the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

A lot of US banks have ‘gone up the Swanee’. Could it be this one has too?

I have to say I’d never trust an online bank :dubious:

I hope you manage to retrieve your money.

It’s Ally Bank, and I joined them back when they were GMAC. A review of complaints on the web show that I’m not alone in my problem - horror stories abound of them doing the same sorts of thing - telling people ONLY employee X can unlock the account, and employee X is on vacation…or no longer works there…, refusing to transfer you to supervisors when you ask (they did that to me), mailing you cashiers checks when you close your account and then putting a stop on a cashiers check, holding your account locked for 60 to 90 days ever after you prove your bona fides “just in case”, etc.

I’ve had to actually borrow money to pay expenses for the upcoming week, even though I have many times the money I need sitting in a savings account.

My question, to avoid asking for specific legal advice, is whether a bank like this which does not have a brick and mortar presence within a State falls under the jurisdiction of the State AG, and whether they can be taken to court.

They do; I get monthly statements and advertisements from them. Apparently they can send me ads but not notices that my account has been frozen due to me committing “fraud” by linking my account there to another of my accounts. Which not only their software allowed, but at the time I had phoned them to ask how to do it - and they told me how!

It’s hard to see the postal fraud, however: they claim my money is safe, and earning interest, I just can’t get it back. Their statements never say “BTW, you can get your money from us”, although it’s sure as shit implied when one opens a bank account… :mad:

Run, don’t walk, to the sources cited above. The bad news is that your money is likely gone in a Ponzi scheme, but you may be able to recover a portion of it in the lawsuit.

I just chatted with them

Looks that might be a good place to sic a lawyer (or a letter) on them.

The problem seems not to be that they are scam artists, but they are simply extremely paranoid about being scammed and get easily and quickly spooked by anything out of the ordinary and then lock down (or lock out) accounts. This causes numerous verification issues when a real customers, or potential customers, need the benefit of the doubt in solving a problem.

Ally Bank Foolishly Losing Our Business

Why would linking to another bank account be fraud? I have an online savings account with ING, and it is linked to my B of A checking account. I transfer funds back and forth several times a year.

Why would Ally consider this fraud?

This is a little alarmist. Ally may be incompetent at retail banking (I’ve heard bad things about them), or they may be overly paranoid, but this is not a fly by night internet bank. It is GMAC. I’m not saying they are the strongest bank out there, but they are also not an out and out fraud.

My advice would be to make noise, make threats, but don’t spend much money doing it. After some posturing, you will get your money, then take it and move it somewhere else.

On the plus side, they have nice commercials.

Ally is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. No depositor has ever lost a cent when FDIC insured banks go under (up to the deposit limit, currently $250,000).

One option is writing to your congressman. They routinely help people get in contact with the right Federal regulators, in fact, they will very likely present your case right to the appropriate bureaucrats who handle these sorts of matters.

Do you trust any other kind of bank? If so, why?

Did you gloss over this part of the complaints?

If my bank was doing bullshit like this, my alarms would be in full klaxon.

Good question. Given that this is an Internet bank (i.e., one without branches), how can one be expected to access one’s money without triggering a fraud hold? The OP mentions that the external linked account is a joint account. Is that the problem? Would everything have been hunky-dory had the linked account been an individual account?

I agree with the fire all salvos approach with all available regulators. (I would not do the small claims thing [I expect your balance is too high, anyway] or any litigation).

I would file complaints with the FDIC and your state’s attorney general and/or banking regulator.

After a great deal of searching on their website, I found that the bank is a Utah-chartered bank (.pdf fact sheet). Since it is state-chartered, not federal, the OCC probably wouldn’t be the place to go (though copying them couldn’t hurt), but I would complain to the Utah Department of Financial Institutions.

Copying your complaint to legislators and other officials (federal, your state, Utah) also wouldn’t hurt, particularly in this anti-financial institution environment .

Often in these situations, when someone starts complaining to regulators, the institution will assign somebody in their “fix it fast” department to get you what you need and get the regulators off their back. Become the squeaky wheel to get yourself greased.

Out of idle curiousity, I would be interested in how much better the interest rate was at this internet-only bank, rather than at a neighborhood brick-and-mortar place down the street…

Were you making thousands of dollars in interest (assuming that you eventually get all your money out A-OK) above what a local place offered, or was it only a few hundred bux more over all the years?