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What is a Blocked Account?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Blocked accounts are any type of bank accounts that have been frozen for political reasons, or that contain funds that are subject to some sort of exchange controls. The term is also sometimes applied to any account that is frozen when the account holder dies. Depending on the reasons behind the action, releasing a blocked account may require the intervention of a federal treasury or revenue agency, rather than a directive from a local court.

A blocked account is a more serious matter than a frozen account. Local authorities can have bank accounts frozen for a number of reasons, such as in relation to a pending divorce action. Those same authorities can lift the freeze once the court case has been settled in some manner. In contrast, a blocked account is rarely related to civil matters between private citizens. Instead, the focus is on issues with the account and the currency contained within that account, and how they relate to some issue that has an impact on the nation.

One of the main reasons for a blocked account has to do with the exchange rate between currencies. In the event that the currency relevant to the contents of the account is blocked from trading for some reason, there is a good chance that the account will also be blocked until the currency is allowed to be traded on foreign exchange markets once more. In the interim, the account holder is not able to remove funds from the account, although there are situations where the funds can be transferred to another account for internal use in the country that issues the currency.

A blocked account may also come about as a response to some sort of national emergency. In the event there is some sort of political upheaval within a given country, steps may be taken to freeze or block the bank accounts for a period of time. The same strategy may be employed if some sort of natural disaster takes place or if war is declared, since events of this type can and sometimes do render the normal security measures that protect the funds within the accounts inoperable. In situations of this nature, a federal agency or department would be charged with the responsibility of deciding when or if to unblock the accounts. For example, in the United States, the U.S. Treasury department has the power to block and unblock bank accounts under circumstances that impact national security.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By lluviaporos — On Jun 28, 2011

You have to be very careful about emails which mention blocked bank accounts.

There is a bunch of scams that go around claiming that your account has been blocked. They sometimes ask you to give them your details directly, relying on your shock at being blocked.

They might even have a link to a fake version of your bank website, so they can get your password details off you and then they have full access to your accounts.

I do a lot of banking online and if someone got access to my account it would be awful. Not that I have all that much money, but still.

Be very careful about any email like this and always go directly to the bank website by typing in the address.

By Mor — On Jun 28, 2011

I've heard that this can be a problem with Paypal accounts. I've read a few forums where people hang out who work online and they often depend on Paypal to get their pay check.

But, because Paypal doesn't necessarily need to worry about government intervention, they can block your account for arbitrary reasons or no reason at all. They can do it without warning as well.

There are quite a few help groups set up for people who have had this happen to them. There are hundreds of thousands of people who use Paypal without a hitch, but it is scary that they can hold your money at their whim.

Until there is another option for an online bank account though, most people will continue to use them.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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