Man says Bank of America refused to cash his insurance check because he is Black

Abu Mubarik July 30, 2021
A Bank of America local branch office in Eagan, Minnesota, at sunrise. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Webster

San Diego, Calif., attorney John Pittman III has accused a Bank of America branch of racial profiling as he tried to cash his insurance check. In a recent interview, he said the bank’s branch in Pacific Beach refused to serve him when he tried to cash a $12,000 insurance settlement check.

He said that he was refused service by the bank’s assistant manager who went further to accuse him of trying to steal and almost called the authorities to get him to leave the bank.

Pittman, who lives in downtown San Diego, told KPBS that the unfortunate incident would not have happened if he were not Black. “I’m thinking this would not have happened if I wasn’t a Black person,” he said.

An attorney by profession, Pittman said he went to cash the check made to him in January 2020 from the insurance company GEICO after his car was involved in an accident. He was told he could not withdraw the money because the name on his driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate did not match the name on the check which didn’t include the “III” suffix after his last name.

Pittman, who said he has worked in the insurance industry for nine years as a loan processor, asked the Bank to verify his information with the insurance company but they declined, insisting they have no way of verifying him.

“Just call the insurance company, no big deal,” Pittman said he told the assistant branch manager. “They’ll verify the social security number and a birthday, which is on all my stuff anyway. And on the check, it actually said, ‘for vehicle repair.’ And she said, ‘no, no, no. We can’t. Even if we call to verify, we have no way to know that we verified.’”

Frustrated by the drama unfolding right before him, Pittman called GEICO and put a representative of the insurance company on ‘loud speaker’ to speak with the assistant manager of the bank. Pittman said it only made the assistant manager more suspicious.

“She says, ‘well, I don’t know who you are. You could just be one of his friends,’” Pittman said. The insurance company representative, who was still on phone, asked the assistant manager to call the insurance company’s 800 number and ask for her by name. The representative also promised to fax or email anything the bank needed to confirm Pittman was who he said he was but the assistant manager refused the suggestion and left, Pittman said.

According to him, he left to speak to the branch manager and when he returned, he was told that the police has been notified that he is trying to steal someone’s identity.

Pittman said he was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he was singled out because he is Black. “I just cannot see them calling the police on every person that they get a check from that doesn’t have junior or a third or whatever,” he said. “That just doesn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, a Bank of America spokesperson confirmed to KPBS that Pittman was refused service because the name on his ID could not match that on the check but denied that the police was ever called.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 30, 2021


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