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Fake Bank Of America Website, YourBofA, Asks People How They Would Run BofA

Posted: 04/19/2012 2:32 pm Updated: 04/19/2012 3:07 pm

"Banking is too complicated for ordinary people to understand," reads the press release from YourBofA.com. "That's not to say people are stupid."

There's a new Bank of America site on the Internet, but its dose of bracing candor isn't coming from the North Carolina-based bank.

YourBofA looks a lot like the real Bank of America's site -- aping many of its design elements, including color schemes and typefaces. But instead it is the work of a band of fairly merry prankster-activists, including the Yes Men, a group of protesters whose website describes a mission to impersonate "big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them."

A spokesman for YourBofA, who identified himself as Bengo Guenther, told The Huffington Post that the site is a collaboration between the Yes Lab -- the Yes Men's incubator for culture-jamming projects -- and a number of other parties, including the Rainforest Action Network, "people with Occupy Wall Street" as well as the New Bottom Line, a pro-labor coalition that advocates for the use of credit unions and community banks.

"In all likelihood, some bank will fail, and Bank of America looks like it could be that bank," Guenther told The Huffington Post. "If we need to bail it out, we'd hope to be ready to do something good with it."

Guenther also admitted that his name, printed on the press release, was "invented."

"I've never heard of 'Bengo,'" Guenther said. "Together with the German name, it just seems right somehow."

On one section of YourBofA, readers are invited to share their ideas for what a taxpayer-owned Bank of America would look like. Some suggestions seem more constructive than others.

"I want my bank to lay out all potential charges on my card usage and accounts to be in a clear and understandable term sheet before any charges are incurred," one comment stated.

"Banks need to offer investment opportunities that focus on local needs and small businesses," another stated.

"I would like you to feature a photo of Brian Moynihan with his head up his ass!" declared a third.

The site's organizers haven't heard directly from Bank of America, Guenther said. They seem to have caught the attention of Google, however, which flagged YourBofA as a phishing site for a short time on Wednesday. The warning was later removed.

YourBofA does not appear to require its users to provide any personal information, unless they want to design an ad for a new Bank of America using a template on the site; then they must provide a first name.

For a while on Wednesday, Dow Jones Newswires apparently took YourBofA's press release to be an authentic announcement from the bank and posted it online, only to later realize the mistake and issue a correction.

When asked whether YourBofA's creators had any of their own banking prescriptions, Guenther was vague. He did, however, say that he personally supported the idea of Bank of America helping borrowers refinance their homes and that he'd like banks to make their investment practices more transparent.

"When you put your money into a bank, even a checking account, they use that money for whatever they want," Guenther said. "It would be cool, personally, if you actually had a choice in that matter."

The Yes Men have created other fake websites to critique powerful institutions, including Apple, the Chamber of Commerce and the World Trade Organization.

A spokesman for Bank of America confirmed to HuffPost that YourBofA is "not affiliated with the company" and declined to comment further.

The site launched Wednesday, just a day before Bank of America released a mixed quarterly earnings report.

The site calls on viewers to begin "sharing ideas, and reading and rating the ideas of others" -- all in preparation for the day when Bank of America is taken over by the government and put in the hands of taxpayers, a development that YourBofA seems to regard as inevitable.

Bank of America has experienced some turmoil over the past few months -- selling off its properties, weathering a massive consumer backlash over its debit card fees, and losing its spot as the nation's biggest bank to JPMorgan Chase.

The bank has also faced continuing fallout from its role in the subprime mortgage crisis, paying $335 million in December, to settle allegations that its Countrywide unit discriminated against minority borrowers, and participating in the March
$25 billion mortgage settlement between the federal government and five of the country's largest lenders.

This story has been updated to include details of Dow Jones Newswires' posting of the press release.

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