Criminals steal money from bank accounts
When thieves intercept checks you’ve written, forge signatures to cash them, and steal your money… it’s not always easy to get help. In many cases, the fraud victim loses thousands of dollars even though their bank cashed the forged or fraudulent checks.
Our KPRC 2 Investigates team gets answers on who is ultimately responsible.
A victim of check fraud sent a check to the IRS
Emanuel, 75, honed his green thumb in retirement. Spending time in her West Houston backyard is relaxing.
What doesn’t relax him is the nearly two years he spent trying to get his money back from the Chase bank.
“I sent over $13,270 to the IRS; and it was for my taxes,” Emanuel said.
In July 2020, Emanuel sent a check to the IRS. The payment was prepaid and he even made a copy before sending it.
When he received his monthly statement from Chase, he saw that the check had been cashed.
“The only thing I have on the statement was the date, the check number, and the amount of the check. So as far as I know, the IRS had received the check,” he explained.
But five months later, the IRS told Emanuel he never received the money. When he went to Chase to investigate, an employee showed Emanuel a copy of the check he had written to federal authorities.
The check they had was made out to someone else and Emanuel’s signature was different.
“It’s not my signature. So I don’t understand how Chase can withdraw money from my account. With a signature that is not mine, it was misspelled,” Emanuel said.
He filed a police report, completed an affidavit with Chase, and waited. But after Chase investigated, a rep told Emanuel he wouldn’t get his money back because he waited too long to report the fraud.
They sent him an account agreement that reads: “If you don’t notify us of any unauthorized checks within 30 days, we are not obligated to reimburse you.”
“100% impossible for me to have known within 30 days what happened,” he said.
And Emmanuel is not alone.
Stan Dorak waited months for Chase to return more than $6,000 of check fraud to his account.
“So they accepted a check that wasn’t endorsed,” Stan Dorak said.
After sharing Dorak’s story earlier this year, we’ve received lots of emails from others who have been through the same thing.
Another viewer wrote in to report that the $25 check he sent to St. Jude in November had been washed and made out to someone else for $7,800. He had been waiting to collect this money for more than two months.
What you can do if you are a victim of check fraud
If you are a victim of check fraud, file a police report first. the Houston police have a fraud division dedicated to investigating check fraud in our area.
We discovered by law, or lack of one, banks can take months to complete investigation.
The federal agency that regulates banks is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. They say:
Generally, a bank is responsible for accepting a check that has been forged, altered, or improperly endorsed. However, the bank cannot be held liable if it accepted the check in good faith and the customer’s lack of ordinary diligence contributed substantially to its alteration or forgery.
The law gives banks wide leeway to decide when and when not to return a customer’s money. But if this happens to you, you should file a written complaint with the comptroller’s office.
You can also ask your bank to send you statements with check images on the statement. This way you can ensure that the checks have been cashed by the correct person.
Good news, when we reached out to Chase about the customers who contacted us who were still waiting for their money, the bank returned those funds, including the over $13,000 from Emanuel he’s been waiting for since 2020.
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