WaMu/Chase Doesn't Believe Your Card Was Stolen, Despite The Fact That The Thief Was Arrested

Reader Stephen says that a NYC Taxi driver tricked him into using an ATM skimmer-like-device instead of the normal credit card machine and made off with his card and PIN. The NYPD made an arrest, but Stephen says he’s still battling with Chase/WaMu.

Here’s Stephen’s story:

On May 27 at approximately 1:00 AM I took a New York City yellow taxi from a cab depot on Bleecker St. to my apartment in Brooklyn, NY. I asked the driver if I could pay with a credit card. He said I could but asked if it could be debit instead since his credit machine wasn’t working. I said debit was fine. When we arrived at my apartment in Brooklyn the fare was $14.50 and he told me he had to swipe my debit card up front since his machine in the back was down. I gave him my card to swipe and he did swipe my card and had me punch in my PIN on what appeared to be a debit keypad. He returned a card to me and I got out of the taxi. When I was getting ready for work the next day I noticed that the card returned to me was identical to my Wamu-Chase debit card but had another name on it. I checked my account activity and saw that my card had been used at various locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan to withdraw large sums of money. I immediately called Wamu-Chase to report my card stolen and then reported all fraudulent activity on the account. I was told that I would not be responsible for charges that were not mine and that the money would be refunded to my account within 5 business days. I was also told I would receive affidavits that I must sign and send back to Wamu-Chase with all available information on them.

After work on May 27 I went to the police station to file a report. After filing the report I faxed a copy of the incident information slip the police gave me to Wamu-Chase. A couple days later I was called into my precinct to meet with a NYPD detective. He called Wamu-Chase with me to find out as much information as possible about the transactions. The detective told me that the worst was over and that my money would be returned by Wamu-Chase while he worked on apprehending the suspect.

To my surprise, before the affidavits even arrived in the mail, the temporary credits that were issued to me had been reversed. I called Wamu-Chase to find out why and was told that because my PIN was used the transactions couldn’t possibly be fraudulent. I explained that the driver must have somehow copied my PIN when he had me enter it on his keypad. I was told that my claims were being reopened.

When I received the affidavits I immediately sent them in via fax and mail (June 10). The next time I met with the detective (June 22) and told him the trouble I was having with Wamu-Chase, he made a call on my behalf to Wamu-Chase debit card claims to explain the situation. He then faxed Wamu-Chase a copy of the police report that was requested. June 23 I called Wamu-Chase again and was told that my claims were still being reviewed. On June 24, I was told that the police report was received and that the investigation was still being conducted. On June 26, I called and was told that my claims hadn’t been touched since June 23. I was told to call back after giving it some time.

On June 30 or July 1, I was called by the detective and told an arrest was made. I was subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury on July 2 but when I showed up, was told that the suspect made bail and that I would need to appear in court at a later date. I met with the ADA and discussed the details of my case with her. On July 7, I received letters from debit card claims saying that my claims had been rejected again. I called to find out why and was told that the times of at least one of the transactions didn’t match up with my account of what happened, that the card was in my possession when it was used. I explained that there must be some mistake and tried to find out when the card was used exactly. I was told that one of the reported fraudulent transactions occurred May 26 at 11:45 PM. I asked which time zone the time in question was in since I am ET and the time zone referenced on the claim rejection was in PT. The representative I spoke with on the phone told me that he couldn’t verify the time zone that the stated time was in and tried to get a supervisor on the phone to help me. He told me that the supervisor would not speak with me and that the claims were closed for good and could not be reopened since they had been reopened and expedited before already. I explained that an arrest was made and I was subpoenaed and was told that Wamu-Chase was done with my claims and that there was nothing further I could do to have them reopened.

My Wamu-Chase checking account is now -$339.98 in the negative and my savings has had $302.75 stolen from it. The DA is calling it grand larceny. Wamu-Chase is telling me that if I don’t have my account back to a positive balance within the next couple weeks, my account will be closed and the owed money will be reported to a credit bureau. At the time of the fraudulent transactions, I only had $71.09 in my checking account but because of the overdraft protection I was advised by Wamu to get when I opened my account, the account is now -$339.98 in the negative. Not only did I have all my money stolen from me that night by a cab driver, but also Wamu-Chase is now telling me that I won’t be getting my money back and will have to put the money that was stolen from me (that in the case of my checking account wasn’t even in it in the first place) back into my account myself to avoid having action taken against me by the bank.

I have been on the phone with Wamu-Chase countless times since the incident occurred almost 2 months ago and cannot seem to get this resolved. I was a strong advocate of Wamu-Chase before and never had any complaints or problems before this incident. I would like to remain a proud customer but have spent so much time and energy trying to resolve this incident with no success. Wamu-Chase advertises zero-liability protection and encourages overdraft protection. I was not protected by either.

I have just recently graduated from college and I really watch my money closely. This is a lot of money to me. This has put me in a very difficult financial position. I really need someone to help me out.

I don’t know where to go from here and have never felt so poorly treated as a customer. I’ve read horror stories of this happening before with Wamu-Chase, and I’m sure that money means a lot less to them than it does to me. Is it true what the Wamu-Chase representative told me? That my case is closed and I better get my account back to a positive balance before they come after me? It just seems to unjust and ridiculous. Who is the real thief here—the taxi driver or Wamu-Chase?

Well, Stephen, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, which governs debit card transactions, is pretty clear on this issue. If you report the theft of your card or your code within two business days, your liability is limited to $50.

Since you seen to have exhausted your options with the bank, it’s time to file a formal complaint with their regulator. Here’s how you do that:

  • Contact WaMu/Chase with a formal complaint. You can do this in writing, or by email. Keep a copy of this complaint for your records.
  • Figure out which agency regulates your bank by calling or using FDIC’s Bank Find.
  • Write a formal complaint letter to the bank’s regulatory agency. Follow the FTC’s instructions for writing a complaint.

    This document also has the correct contact information for the various regulatory agencies. Keep a copy of this complaint for your records.

According to the FDIC, “The regulatory agencies will be able to help resolve the complaint if the financial institution has violated a banking law or regulation. They may not be able to help where the consumer is not satisfied with an institution’s policy or practices, even though no law or regulation was violated. Additionally, the regulatory agencies do not resolve factual or most contractual disputes.”

By filing a complaint, the regulating agency will investigate whether WaMu/Chase actually violated any banking regulations.

If that doesn’t work, you can always try suing them in small claims court. This small claims advice page says you can serve a small claims lawsuit to a bank teller!

Also, since you’re in NYC, 311 can help you locate free legal advice.

Good luck, and remember kids — use the taxi’s official credit card machine.

(Photo:ataq411)