Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Help Me Howard: Condo Check Fraud
A South Florida woman learning crooks copied her condo association's checking account number, wiping them out. When she went to the bank to get the cash back, they didn't help. So she called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you were looking for the perfect person to be on you side, you would probably want it be Melissa Angulo- smart, thoughtful and determined, very determined.
Melissa Angulo: "I am not throwing in the towel yet. Something has got to happen here."
Earlier this year, Melissa became the president of the Berkshire Condo Association in Bay Harbor- a volunteer job representing her fellow residents that she took very seriously.
Melissa Angulo: "At that time it become obvious that we had endured fraud."
Melissa and her board discovered that months earlier someone had stolen from the association.
Melissa Angulo: "Somehow somebody got a hold of our bank account number and they went ahead, created their own checks with our bank account number."
Bank of America caught this phony check for $8,500. But the bank let these two phony Berkshire checks go through.
Melissa Angulo: "One is for $7,500. The other one is $9,700."
Unfortunately for Melissa and Berkshire, the prior president and board didn't catch the $17,200 theft or didn't bother to notify the bank. Melissa called the police, then called the bank.
Melissa Angulo: "And they basically they said sorry, you are past the 60 days."
Bank of America told Melissa their policy says if the customer doesn't notify the bank of the theft within 60 days, the bank is not responsible. Melissa's argument- you cashed the bad checks, you are responsible.
Melissa Angulo: "They have a fiduciary responsibility for our money and they did not come through."
Melissa filed an complaint with the federal government. Bank of America looked into it again, then sent her another letter saying, "Again our check fraud department denied the claim due to filing fraud in an untimely manner." That's when most people would have given up. Most people are not named Melissa Angulo.
Melissa Angulo: "I don't take no that easily for an answer. We are not talking about $70 here, we are talking about $17,200 dollars."
Well Howard the banks policy says if the customer doesn't notify them within 60 days of the fraud, you cannot get your money back. Can you?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes you can. The bank is wrong. Any company can have a policy but that doesn't make it the law. Legally if a bank cashes one of your checks written by someone else, they have to refund your money no matter how many days passed."
We then contacted Bank of America. They agreed to look into the Berkshire claim again.
Then Melissa told us she could not discuss the case anymore. Howard says that usually means the condo reached a financial agreement with Bank of America and the bank probably had to refund some money to Berkshire.
Bank of America told us because of customer privacy they could not comment on the details and the bank doesn't always have to return your money.
Howard Finkelstein: "The bank doesn't have to refund your money if you were negligent. In other words, you left your checkbook in a restaurant, someone started writing checks and you never bothered to notify the bank. In that case you are responsible."
As part of her agreement with Bank of America, Melissa can't comment on the settlement. But from what she told us earlier, we know she has to be happy for her neighbors.
Melissa Angulo: "These people are retired, they rely on their pensions. Do we need the money? Yes, absolutely."
Patrick Fraser: "The bank refused to return the $17,200 that was stolen. After we got involved they reached a settlement. So how do you get money stolen from you if the bank refuses to help out? First of all do like Melissa. Don't give up. Secondly, take them to court. After you close all your accounts with them."
Banking on some help with your problem? Check with us and hopefully we can help you cash in.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com
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