How to close somebody else’s bank account

Somewhere around 5 to 7 years ago I opened a bank account. Around 2 years ago (or was it 3?) I stopped using it because I got a new job and they offered an account in another bank with more benefits. I left some money in the first account, because it had some monthly expenses and I wanted to keep it just in case.

Time went by, I checked the account a year later or so, just to see if I had any debt. There was a bit of money in there, interestingly it had some interest so while I wasn’t making a profit, the account was almost paying for itself. “I should close this account, I’ve got no use for it now”, I said to myself.

Being how I am, time went by and I didn’t get to close the account as soon as I wanted to.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried getting to an ATM with the card for the account to check the balance, in case I might have accumulated some debt. But the card was rejected as invalid.

The next day, in an effort to clear any debt I might have, I went to the bank to finish this damn thing once and for all.

The bank is divided into basically two sections (there are a lot more, but two for the sake of this explanation):

  1. The side where you go to extract money, you know, like an ATM but with humans.
  2. The side where you go to do administrative stuff, like opening an account, or closing it.

When you get to the bank, there are two ladies that dispatch you.

“Good morning, what are you planning to do today?”, she asked. “I want to close my savings account”. She touched a screen a couple of times, gave me a number and said “wait there” while pointing to section 1 from above.

I would’ve gone to the other section, but who am I to argue with a bank employee.

So I waited there. My number was called, and I went to the window.

  • “I would like to close my account and pay out any debt I might have”
  • “Alright, please swipe your card”
  • “I would, but the ATM says it’s invalid”
  • “Alright, what’s your ID number?” (In Argentina we’ve got these ID numbers for every citizen, but it’s not secret like a SSN.)
  • “XX XXX XXX” (the number, no need for you to know)
  • “Ok, yeah, it looks like the account has been disabled for some reason, you probably have some debt. Go to the other section of the bank, they will do some things that will allow me to close the account and settle any debts you might have, but I can’t do anything right now”

So I went to the other end, waited for my number. When my turn was up, I approached the desk:

  • “I would like to close my account, I was at the other side of the bank but they sent me here now”
  • “Alright, what’s your ID number?”
  • “XX XXX XXX”
  • “Ok, let me check a few things”

The guy went away to discuss with another guy, then came back, typed a few things and went away again.

When he came back, he said “Here, why don’t you get your signature on here so that I can register it for your account”. I doodled my signature in the paper.

He went away again, talked to some people, came back and printed my current balance (it turns out I had no debt), and said “Go to the other section with this paper and they will give you the money you’ve got in your account”. “And that’s it? The account is closed and it’ll end up with a balance of zero?”, I asked. “That’s right”.

At that point, after 3 hours of waiting in the bank I decided I didn’t want to add another hour to get the money I had just yet, so I left.

I wonder if I would be able to get the money without giving an ID, but… I closed the account, got my balance, registered a new signature. All without presenting any form of ID. Not because I wanted to test anything; they just didn’t ask for one.

But every time I try to talk to the security teams at banks, their answer is a condescending “Son, we are a bank, our security is tight”.

I’m not an expert, just a concerned user. But if I got all this, I wonder what a real expert can pull off.