WaMu's Inability To Mail Letters Costs Man $3,400

Wamu’s fraud department has a problem sending letters. Just like another reader, Kristin, we posted about, Rob is having trouble disputing fraudulent charges on his account. He followed their every instruction, except to respond to the second letter WaMu sent out. How could Rob do such a foolish thing? Because it never showed up in his mailbox, a point, WaMu seems to think, is owing to, not their incompetence, but Rob’s general lassitude and weakness of character. Or something like that. Here’s Rob’s story…

In March of 2008, I used a debit card on an online poker site, which happened to be a foreign vendor. I know it wasn’t wise, but I did. I had no issues at all with site, until I made a withdrawal in mid-April. A few days after that withdrawal I spotted several large charges pending on my WAMU debit card account that I did NOT authorize. The poker site used a foreign third party card authorizer and apparently they decided to have some fun with my card. I contacted the poker site and informed them of the problem, and they refused to do anything for me. The third party does not even have a contact phone number. I then called WAMU before the charges could even post, and was told that I would have to wait until they posted before the dispute could be done. After all was said and done, 15 unauthorized charges totaling $3,400 hit my account. I canceled that debit card, filed the dispute and was given a provisional credit within 5 days.

The following week, I received a letter from WAMU stating that I needed to contact them about what documentation they needed in order to pursue the dispute. That’s all it said. I called on April 29th and spoke to a CSR about what I needed to send the fraud claims department. She told me that all I needed to send was a written and signed affidavit detailing what had happened and what I had done to remedy the situation. I did exactly that and faxed it to them that same day.

I hadn’t heard anything for about a month and called the claims department. After waiting on hold for over half an hour, I was told that they had no new information.

Two more months go by. I received a letter from WAMU stating that I had not provided them with enough documentation to pursue the claim, and they reversed the provisional credit. I called them immediately and after being on hold for 45 minutes this time I spoke to another CSR, and then a manager. I was informed that they sent out a letter on April 30th, the day after I faxed my affidavit, which said I still needed more documentation. That second letter magically never arrived. They told me that it was too late and they would deny me the ability to fight these charges with the vendor. I explained to them over and over again about how I did exactly what was asked of me, and did NOT receive the second letter. Finally to get me off the phone, the manager suggested I submit a re-assertion letter to get the claim reopened, along with any documentation I could provide. There wasn’t a lot of documentation to provide, since it’s kind of hard to prove you didn’t authorize a charge online. I provided them with copies of emails to the poker site and the third party vendor demanding they credit the unauthorized charges.

Three weeks later, I am told that again they will not pursue the claim. The CSR is extremely rude to me and almost seems to gloat about me being screwed. She said, “You didn’t send in enough documentation within the prescribed deadline. Now you’ve sent in the documentation, but it’s still past the deadline.” Too bad…so sorry. I was told that I should have read the important information on the back of their notices (one of which I didn’t receive) informing me of the deadline.

Now I’m not stupid. I realize that WAMU is pre-judging me based on the fact that I dealt with an online poker site. But I believe they are breaking my rights by not even pursuing this dispute. All I’m asking is that they continue on to MasterCard and file the dispute with the vendor. I’m not asking for any provisional credit. If they would actually let this claim continue, the burden would be on the vendor to provide documentation. The vendor can not have any documentation, since I did NOT authorize the charges. I’m only asking that they follow the law. They have gotten around this by failing to send me a second notice, and never actually providing me a list of sufficient documentation on the first notice. Because of that, I missed the deadline.

I filed a claim with the Better Business Bureau. A CSR from WAMU called and left a message on my cell phone in a very haughty tone, saying that they were aware of the complaint I had made, and that they were so sorry, but I missed the deadline. They suggested I sue the vendor.

They know I can’t file a lawsuit against the vendors, since they are not in the U.S.

I plan on contacting the Office of Thrift Services, but do they actually have any clout in this matter?


Rob K

OTS is WaMu’s bank regulator, so yes, they do have clout. You can also try contacting their executive customer service team. Then, after you get your money back, switch banks.

Then, next time you want to play poker, consider a friendly game with your buddies. As your letter states, online gambling doesn’t attract the most savory of business people. If you do have to scratch the itch, at least use a credit card, not a debit card. That way, if the account gets hijacked, it’s the bank out the cash and not you.

We asked WaMu whether this was standard policy or if their letter-sending facility is having an error, and await their response.

(Photo: Getty)

UPDATE: 9/02/08: In response to our email inquiry, WaMu has said they’re interested in checking out this story.

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