#BankingWhileBlack: Bank calls police on Black man trying to cash his own paycheck

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Three weeks after starting his new job, Paul McCowns was ready to get his weekend started and tried to cash his paycheck.

But instead of receiving professional customer service at Huntington Bank, employees reportedly called the police because bank tellers didn’t believe McCowns made the amount that was on his paycheck.

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McCowns’ check was just over $1,000 from new employment with an electric company.

He went to Huntington Bank in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn on Saturday Dec. 1, but was racially profiled by bank employees because apparently his blackness and his bank account didn’t align.

McCowns said he showed two forms of ID as requested, and he even gave up a fingerprint to authenticate his identity, since he was a non-Huntington customer, reported WOIO-TV.

Still, bank employees said they needed to speak to the employer before cashing the check.

“They tried to call my employer numerous times,” McCowns told reporters. “He never picked up the phone.”

After an unsuccessful attempt to cash the check, McCowns tried to leave but couldn’t because police had blocked his truck after employees reported that his check was fake.

He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser where he remained until they got in touch with his employer who confirmed that he was in fact an employee.

“My employer said, ‘Yes, he works for me, he just started and, yes, my payroll company does pay him that much,’” McCowns said.

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The bank claimed there was an uptick in fraud cases in recent months which caused them to take extra precaution.

“We sincerely apologize to Mr. McCowns for this extremely unfortunate event,” the bank said in a statement. “We accept responsibility for contacting the police as well as our own interactions with Mr. McCowns. Anyone who walks into a Huntington branch should feel welcomed. Regrettably, that did not occur in this instance and we are very sorry.”

McCowns told Cleveland 19 News that he was able to cash the check it at another Huntington branch the next day.

“The person who made that phone call — that manager, that teller — whoever made that phone call, I feel as though they were judging,” McCowns told 19 News. He added that the bank should change its policies for people who aren’t account holders.