Sunday, August 19, 2007

FNBO Blunder: Due Diligence 2nd Request Email

FNBO achieved the seemingly impossible: It created a run on an FDIC-insured bank.

"Security" Measure Creates Mass Insecurity

FNBO Direct followed its previous threat to keep customers’ money with this new threat:

As part of your initial application, we did not receive information regarding your current employer, occupation or position. In many cases, this is because you have a status of retired, unemployed or self-employed. We are updating our records as part of our on-going due diligence to be compliant with our standards to support the USA Patriot Act.

Due to the importance of the USA Patriot Act, we have placed a hold on your account(s) until we can document this information for our records. No deposits or withdrawals can be made through your account(s) until we receive this information. We will release the hold upon receipt of this information.

Please provide us with your previous employer, occupation and position by sending an email with this information to fulfillment@fnbodirect.com. If this information is not received within 30 days, the account(s) may be closed. Your immediate attention to this matter is appreciated.

If you wish to discuss this further, please send an email to fulfillment@fnbodirect.com or call 877-370-3707. Please reference your FNBO Direct account number displayed at the top of this page when you contact us.

Thank you for choosing FNBO Direct for your Online Savings Account.

FNBO Direct Customer Service

Problems:

  • The email does not state that any law requires these actions. FNBO only states that you must comply with "our" (FNBO's) standards (if a law does require them, that topic is for another article).
  • Having money is not prima facie suspicious, unless you want to be subject to interrogation every time you pull a bill from your wallet: Do you have a receipt for that dollar? Millions of people have something called “savings” from past jobs. Maybe some bankers have nothing better to do than interrogate retired Grandma and the self-employed teenage babysitter.
  • The email starts by stating that FNBO does not have your “current employer” but then asks for your “previous employer.” FNBO apparently does not even know what it wants.
  • FNBO’s action is not due diligence. It is closer to no diligence at all. If FNBO is so worried about Grandma’s “suspicious” money, it should verify or deny before accepting her money, not after, so she can take her pension elsewhere. FNBO’s sequence of actions shows that it has few qualms about receiving Grandma’s “suspicious” money; it just dislikes giving Grandma her money back.
  • Some posts on the web claimed that providing more information had solved nothing so the only ray of hope for the customer is that FNBO "may" close your account if you do nothing and do not provide the information, so at least you might get your money back--a month later--maybe (hope you did not need it to pay bills anytime soon).
  • The email reads like a classic phishing scam when a con artist impersonates an institution to steal your identity, this time invoking FNBO and the PA instead of the Bank of Nigeria. Many businesses state that they would never send such an email asking for such personal information by email.

How To Make Things Worse: What FNBO Direct Did with Its Policy

  • FNBO actually managed to damage itself further by taking its bad policy and then mistakenly applying it to customers who already had provided employment information, when on August 10 it sent the above email (with its confusing, out-of-the-blue "2nd Request" title) to an untold number by accident.
  • FNBO then took almost 3 hours to issue an apology email, amidst a flurry of complaints from irate customers.
  • FNBO still did not learn its lesson because its "apology" only told customers to disregard the last email but in the next breath warned that it still could freeze your account and send you a similar email at any time: "If Due Diligence information is required, you will receive a follow-up email."

Meanwhile, FNBO Direct customers peppered internet forums and blogs with announcements that they were withdrawing their money and closing their accounts as soon as possible.

FNBO achieved the seemingly impossible: It created a run on an FDIC-insured bank.

2 comments:

Brip Blap said...

This post (and your previous post) have scared me right off of FNBO, that's for sure. Your third bullet point hits directly at the heart of the matter - suspicions about the source of the money and the eligibility of the depositor under the Patriot Act are fine BEFORE money is deposited, but afterwards? Give me a break. It's a weak law and combining that with FNBO's ham-handed "enforcement" is enough to undermine your confidence in the US financial system. Cash in the mattress time, I guess...

J at IHB and HFF said...

Hello. FNBO’s current policy certainly creates unnecessary risk and wastes both parties' time. I just added more points because there are so many, such as how its “apology” did not solve anything. It is sad to see a company shoot itself in the foot—repeatedly.