WaMu Presents Random $1500 Check On Someone Else's Account, Then Calls It Fraud

[Update: WaMu has returned the money.] Bill’s small business account was hit with a $1500 check written by an unrelated third party to another third party—both completely unconnected with his account. He was also penalized with an insufficient funds fee, although the money was debited from his account. Now WaMu’s saying they have to investigate for fraud before they can return Bill’s fees.

I received a returned check notice from Washington Mutual last week. Not unusual for a small business — until I opened it.

The check in question was a $1,500 private party check written to another private party. The check wasn’t written by, or issued to, my business.

Simple mistake? I visited the WaMu branch across the street from my office and got the stunning response from the branch manager that they’d have to do a fraud investigation. I raised hell again today, and the money, plus a $7 returned check fee, still hasn’t been returned to my account.

I’m considering going to go to small claims court — or swear out a theft complaint against WaMu — to get my money back. The only fraud is that WaMu or KeyBank (the check in question was written on a KeyBank account) screwed up and they’re taking it out of my hide. I’m the innocent bystander.

Maybe WaMu is trying to cover its losses by randomly reassigning bounced checks to accounts that have money in them and hope no one notices.

Why can’t WaMu assume the $1500 loss while they investigate what was probably a clerical error, instead of forcing the problem onto their customer? Maybe WaMu should amend their new ad slogan to “We’ve got your back… unless we’re covering our own asses.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. CharlieInSeattle says:

    Serve them with an intent to sue. Then small claims if they don’t respond.

  2. Buran says:

    Hmm. File a fraud complaint with their own fraud department? Unauthorized withdrawals sure fall within their purview, right?

  3. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I sadly had this happen to me back in November – it took BofA until APRIL to refund $850 in NSF fees back to me.

    I couldn’t do much b/c they kept tossing the “we’re investigating” line at me, and we went back and forth with the paperwork for months. It did however finally get resolved, albeit 5 months later.

    Just be persistent – hound ’em everyday. They’ll get it straightened out.

  4. Walrii says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers: I agree, for the most part, except that this $1500 might mean the difference between going bankrupt / out of business and prospering. Several people (aka employees) could be permanently affected by this. In the least, he might be forced to take out a loan in order to spend the money that he should already have.

  5. Bladefist says:

    This is kind of like the IRS. They sent me a check for $1000, that could not have been mine. Like the great guy that I am, I called them, sat on hold for a hour. They verified I was right, and told me I had to send it by a certain date or pay a penalty and interest. I was like @#$@# you.

  6. meadandale says:

    Why you people continue to bank with the likes of WAMU or BofA is baffling.

  7. Uriel says:

    what was the result of your encounter?

  8. 0x12is18 says:

    I had the same thing happen to me with a small town bank once. After realizing that the check cleared my account by mistake, it was reversed on the spot.

  9. Lance Uppercut says:

    Several years ago my sister and I worked at the same place and both had accounts with Huntington. One time she deposited her paycheck and somehow it ended up in my account.

    When she called Huntington they told her it was easier for me to write her a check than for them to fix it. So that is what we did.

    I never understood why they couldn’t fix it themselves or how it ended up in my account to begin with.

  10. Bladefist says:

    @NeroDiavolo: I’m mailing it tomorrow. I cant remember the penalty day. But at first they wanted me to drive it to a different city in Kansas. And when I said no, they were appalled. Like I’m going to take off work, and drive 30 mins away with gas prices as they are.

    And when you call, you speak to their automated attendant, and they have a maximum on hold capacity, so after all that crap, it just disconnected me, tol d me to call back later when they are less busy.

    Anywho, they finally said I could mail it, but warned me to do it quick.

    The reason this happened is some chick sent in her estimated taxes, with my social security number.

  11. Bladefist says:

    the whole thing made me hate the irs more then I already did. This must have happened to ron paul at some point

  12. Black Bellamy says:

    bladefist: just throw it in the garbage

    why would you mail it back? it’s not for you, you didn’t cash it, you didn’t sign for it, it doesn’t exist

    throw it out

  13. Bladefist says:

    @Black Bellamy: Yea, I asked if I could tear it up. Obviously they are the IRS, if I didn’t, they would know, and could take just about any action they wanted.

    She said no, that I would have to pay a big penalty.

  14. Whtthfgg says:

    banks MUST give you temporary provisional credit while they investigate…stay on their ass…i think they need to do it within 48 hours

  15. jwissick says:

    Call the consumer fraud department of your local attorney general right away. That should light a fire under someone’s ass.

  16. Softly-with-a-Big-Stick says:

    Check your statements people—something I’m guilty of not doing often enough—especially if you’re with with WAMU! I paid for license tab renewals with my debit card, and after reading about Debit cards possibly not having the same protections Charge cards do on Consumerist I went online to see what WAMU had to say about it.

    Hold on to your seats! I was charged TWICE for one of the 3 tabs I re-newed! Couldn’t find anything about the Debit card, so called the 800#. Over an hour later, I had talked to two women with such strong accents I couldn’t understand them, was transferred to their fraud department by mistake, then talked to a very confused young man who kept putting me on hold to check MY account. I kept saying “I JUST WANT A COPY OF THE G-E-N-E-R-I-C disclosure statement that states the rights and responsibilities of the bank and me. You ready??? He says they don’t have one!

    It was 4:31 and the Licensing place closed at 4:30 or I would have kept them engaged a long time and had fun doing it—they are such ignorants they have no clue what they are doing! Gonna take that old Debit Card and have me a whopping party! Me? Not responsible—show me the writing!

    DOL answered the phone and saw the error. It was closing time and she promised to look into it and call me first thing in the morning. She did and the only recourse was if I somehow received two tabs to send them back, but she doubted it was at their end (it wasn’t). (By the way, my statement showed the payment as “pending” for over 24 hours even though it was made in the early afternoon and had been submitted by DOL.

    Oh, and WAMU’s solution? She wanted ME to call DOL and get them on 3-way calling with her! I told her I didn’t know how to use 3-way calling (could have figured it out, but I wasn’t about to). Asked HER to do it and she said she couldn’t! All of a sudden *I* was the
    *dumb* one!

    Bottom line—she said not to worry, WAMU would catch it and take care of it—no problem! Wow, did that make me feel better!

    I have to say, 2 days later the charge went through and only ONE charge showed up, but I have a sick feeling in my gut it’s not over yet.

    Oh, and meadandale, I agree, I’m trying to get out of this place, but been with this same bank for 40 years! WAMU owns it now, but I can’t remember all the times it’s been sold. Please understand, it takes a LOT of time and work to transfer out of a bank. BillPay has to be changed and re-entered, all the companies with auto-withdrawls have to be notified, paycheck direct deposits need to be changed. Not just a quick grab your money and run. Wish it were that simple.

    When I draw it out though, I have a tough decision to make—another bank or under the mattress??? I am SO sick of dealing with banks!

  17. bilge says:

    @meadandale: Because I’ve never had a problem with BoA, even after my debit card was stolen and some crackhead spent about $150 of my money. As soon as the charge cleared, I called BoA and they credited my account that day and sent me some paperwork which I signed and returned. Case closed.

    In any massive company you’re going to have a number of customers who’ve been shafted. I switched to BoA after Wachovia shafted me and I switched to Wachovia after Commerce Bank shafted me and so on down the line until you get to Berkeley Federal Savings Bank which didn’t shaft me, but they only had two ATMs.

    And the moment BoA shafts me, I’m on to the next bank. But it’s been nearly six years and it’s been smooth sailing so far.

  18. timmus says:

    With all these WaMu stories, I’m getting tempted to close my WaMu Mastercard and go elsewhere… on the other hand it seems most of the horror stories are centered on their traditional banking services.

  19. Parting says:

    @bilge: The problem is here with bank’s attitude. That is very poor customer service. You got lucky up until now. Hopefully, for you, your string of luck with BoA will continue. Unfortunately, it’s not like it for a lot of customers.

  20. mac-phisto says:

    OP: don’t threaten them with a lawsuit…threaten them with regulators. lawyers don’t scare them – they have an entire office building full of them. regulators on the other hand…bankers see them coming & start jumping out windows.

    now, here’s the part you’re not going to like –> [www.helpwithmybank.gov]

    My bank owes a refund/reimbursement to my checking/savings account. How long does the bank have to reimburse these funds?

    It depends on how the funds were removed. Generally, there is no specific time limit to correct a check error; however, the bank should correct the error in a reasonable amount of time.

    that last emphasis is mine. what is a reasonable amount of time? the eft act (which governs electronic transfers, not check clearing) says 10 days. in this case, there’s no pre-determined time. you’ll need to check your account agreement to find the answer. you might also want to speak with your state department of banking to see if there are any applicable state laws.

    as for the regulators to contact? hard to say. normally the occ –> [www.occ.treas.gov] governs national banks, but is wamu a national bank or a nation savings bank (they are washington mutual bank after all)? if they are a mutual or federal savings bank, then i believe you want to speak to the office of thrift supervision –> [www.ots.treas.gov] .

    in either case, you can always contact the fdic –> [www.fdic.gov] & the federal reserve board (here’s a link to their not-so-helpful consumer help page –> [www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov] ).

    good luck.

  21. mac-phisto says:

    oh, then there’s also the ftc —> [www.ftc.gov] which imo is as helpful as talling your problem to a wamu atm machine, but ymmv.

    & you might also want to see if your state’s ag office has a consumer advocacy group that works on your behalf. i know pennsylvania has one that’s very good at working with consumers on specific issues, but if you don’t live in pa, that doesn’t help you much, does it? check your state’s homepage for links to the state dept. of banking & atty. general.

  22. mac-phisto says:

    telling not talling…sorry for the spam.

  23. ionerox says:

    @mac-phisto: I wonder if perhaps the recent glorious electronic check clearing between banks would somehow usher it under some of the eft regulations?

  24. mac-phisto says:

    @ionerox: i checked on that before i posted – i don’t believe it does (in most cases).

    checks can be truncated & turned into electronic items using two different methods: one encodes them into ACH items (which uses the electronic clearing houses & rules governed under the eft act) & the other uses the traditional check clearing houses (which aren’t governed under the eft act).

    since the OP has a check (or a replacement check), it wasn’t truncated into an ACH. check 21 mandates that originating institutions maintain a scanned image of the original check (or the original itself) whereas ACH origination dictates that the original be destroyed when the item is truncated.

    i would imagine this is a matter of the bank’s proof department making a simple key logging error & it will just take a day or two to straighten out, but if it’s not resolved by the end of the week, i’d consider calling in the big guns.

  25. Buran says:

    @Bladefist: If it was with your SSN, that’s identity theft. I’d watch out for more scams.

  26. mmstk101 says:

    off-topic but i think “WaMu” is one of the stupidest “let’s shorten our name so we sound super-hip and cool and stuff” names for a company ever.

  27. Bladefist says:

    @Buran: yea, but usually with identity theft, you’re losing money. I think some lady sent in a check for her estimated taxes and mis-printed her ssn.

  28. healthdog says:


    What did they say when you left them. You did leave BOA, right? RIGHT??? There is absolutely no way in hell I would put up with that behavior.

  29. EyeHeartPie says:

    Statistically speaking, I know and you know that some people will be shafted, but the banks refuse to acknowledge that sometimes anomalies occur. If you know someone will be shafted, you or I would implement a system where these people would be taken care of. However, the banks seems to have written this small percentage of people off. If something caused by an improbable chain of events occurs to you, you are screwed, and not in the good way.

    I bet they did some analysis and found it would be cheaper to write the anomalies off rather than actually fix the problems that they are experiencing.

  30. Wormfather says:

    @Bladefist: Wow, just wow.

  31. johnva says:

    @Bladefist: Not necessarily. The definition of identity theft says nothing about you losing money, necessarily. There are plenty of reasons people might use your identity that don’t involve stealing directly from you. For example, illegal immigrants sometimes use other people’s SSNs to work and pay taxes. Other people who want a credit card but can’t get one will simply open one in someone else’s name and make the payments as if it were their own, just piggybacking on your credit. Not all identity thieves are just going to take the money and run immediately.

  32. anarcurt says:

    Whenever there is a problem like this with your bank contact the state banking office and the federal comptroller of the currency. I did this with HSBC after getting nowhere for a week. Within 48 hours I had some kind of manager on the line with the fees reversed.

  33. EyeHeartPie says:

    Looks like the problem was fixed.

    New story on the consumerist.com home page…

  34. Bladefist says:

    @johnva: very interesting. I’ll keep my eyes open.

  35. IvesSkunk says:

    I’m not surprised to read this about WaMu.
    About a year back, I paid the usual $305 bill on my smaller home loan, and what WaMu ended up withdrawing from my Wells Fargo checking account was $3005. Since I didn’t have that kind of money in my account, it went in to overdraft which added all kinds of overdraft fees. After wasting a lot of time with WaMu and Wellsfargo, they (WaMu) agreed to reverse all charges and it took them 5-6 business days to put the money back in my account.