Bank of America has been hit with a lawsuit by one of its clients in California who alleges elder financial abuse, according to a ThinkAdvisor report.
77-year-old Annie Ma claims that she lost her $690,000 in life savings in a so-called “Chinese authorities scam.” She filed suit in California Superior Court last week against the bank and an unidentified branch employee, and the case has now been moved to federal court.
The allegations date back to 2021, when Ma went into a BofA branch in West Covina, California to add her son to her Merrill Lynch account. According to her complaint, a customer service representative said the branch did not have a Merrill Lynch office and gave her a phone number to call to purportedly help her. Ma said a man who answered the phone and spoke to her in Mandarin said she owed $3,600 on a credit card applied for in Shanghai.
When she disputed that assertion, she was connected with another person who said he represented Shanghai police and told her that she was facing incarceration for having $3 million in a Shanghai bank account used for human abductions. The woman’s attorney asserts that she had no money in China or elsewhere outside the United States.
According to the lawsuit, “The person on the phone from the number she called at the direction of the BofA employee convinced (Ma) that her account was under suspicion for being involved in a major crime. The person stated they needed to check (her) money to see if it is involved in criminal activity or if it’s clean.”
Told she could go to jail without cooperating, Ma wired $490,000 so the funds could be checked for criminal activity. Asked to send more or else go to jail, she sent money that was obtained from a $200,000 reverse mortgage.
Ma alleges that BofA should have known under California’s Elder and Dependent Adult Civil Protection that she was being scammed, and did nothing to stop the fraudulent activity. The suit contends that the bank “ignored the many government advisories they have received informing them to detect, deter and respond to the ‘red flags’ of financial elder abuse.” The bank also allegedly ignored “multiple red flags” stemming from the unusually large transfers that the bank wired from Ma’s account.
Ma claims BofA never put a hold on the account or reported any suspicious activity, adding that the bank did not report the branch employee to police and did not contact authorities to investigate the case.
A Bank of America spokesman told Think Advisor, “We disagree with the allegations.”
The bank is accused in the lawsuit of financial elder abuse and unlawful, unfair and deceptive business practices. Ma is seeking general, special, punitive and triple damages.
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