Last week was my oldest son's 18th birthday - the age at which he can legally open a bank account. Since I am a financial planner, I wanted to send him off into adulthood on the right foot by establishing his own bank account, investment account, and credit card. Our first step was a visit to the Ally Bank website, where I intended to have him establish a money market fund that he may use when he goes off to college in the Fall. Our plan was to then establish an Ally credit card that he could link, along with his bank account, to his newly established Acorns account. I planned to fund the Ally account with a check that he would scan in from his iPhone.
He completed the Ally money market account online in about five minutes and hit the submit button. To our surprise, he received a notice that the account was subject to review and that he would receive a response in 2-3 days. We called customer service to find out if this was normal and were informed that the application was just randomly flagged for review. Okay, so we wait a few days. No big deal.
Yesterday, my son received an email notification with a reference number and instructions to call a toll free Ally customer service number. When we called, the customer service rep advised that there was some information on his application that did not seem accurate, but that he was not authorized to disclose what information was missing or causing the problem. He said that to verify the accuracy of the information on the account, my son must now provide a copy of his driver's license and a copy of his social security card to Ally Bank.
While I have no problem providing a copy of a driver's license to comply with the Patriot Act (most states no longer include social security numbers on driver's licenses), there is absolutely no way my son will be mailing his social security card to Ally Bank or any other financial institution. It is shocking in this day and age that Ally would make such a request. Ally already has my son's social security number on the online application he submitted. Honestly, if we had not just applied on Sunday, I would have thought that this was a phishing scam.
As a postscript, I checked online to see if other users had similar issues with Ally Bank. I have found that there are many applicants who have had the exact same experience. There are also many complaints about Ally being both overly zealous in unnecessarily requesting delivery of applicants' social security numbers and about Ally being careless in the treatment of such extremely sensitive, confidential personal data.
This has indeed been an excellent personal finance learning experience for my son, and for me! Two lessons I am now sharing with everyone - (1) do not do business with companies that request you to provide your social security card via mail or unencrypted email, and (2) AVOID Ally Bank.