10 Things Everyone Should Know About Bank Errors

Charles Darrow patented Monopoly in 1935. Since then, millions of people have turned giddy when receiving the “Bank Error in Your Favor” card from Community Chest.

Unfortunately, bank errors are nothing but a hassle in real life – the only thing you collect is a headache and frustration. To help reduce the headache, here are 10 things that everyone should know about bank errors:

Be Patient
The problem will not be solved over night. Banks process many transactions every day and it may take a few days for them to track down and solve your problem.

Be Quick
Call in the error to the bank supervisor (there isn’t much that a teller can do) as soon as you discover it. The sooner the bank can start looking into it the better.

Keep Notes
Keep quality notes of who you talk to, when you talked to them, and what was said/promised. You may need to make several phone calls and it helps to be able to clearly state who you spoke with and what was said. You also may be required to provide documentation somewhere down the line of what you did. Good records will help make this as painless as possible.

Know the End Game
Ask for a date when the problem should be resolved. This will help keep the bank focused on solving your problem in a timely way.

Dodge Bounced Check Fees
If the mistake is an under deposit (you end up with less money than you thought), you should ask the bank to cover any fees that may occur because of the shortage of funds. The bank should cover fees to fix the problem and any others that occur because the correct amount of funds was not in the account

Don’t Spend the Bank’s Money
If there is an over deposit, don’t spend the money. It might be tempting if the bank accidentally deposits an extra $10,000 in your account. Unfortunately the money isn’t yours and you shouldn’t assume that the bank is going to let you keep it. If you do spend it you are just going to have to give it back – possibly with penalties or jail time if you can’t return the money in a timely fashion.

Don’t Move the Bank’s Money
Don’t be tempted to move the money to your brokerage account so you can make some nice interest or buy one of your favorite stocks. Leave the money in the account so the bank can figure out how it got there. Don’t take the money out of the account so you don’t spend it. The bank needs it there to track where it came from. Also, the money needs to be in your account when the bank figures out where it goes and decides to move it out of your account.

Stop Dreaming
The bank’s not going to let you keep the money. Yes, the bank makes errors, but they are not going to let you keep somebody else’s money because they made an error. Get over it. Stop dreaming about that Hawaiian vacation or a mall spending spree. It’s not your money.

Complain or Switch
Some people seem to have bad luck when it comes to bank errors. I’ve been lucky and have had very few, but if you’re having to deal with a lot of errors you should complain. Call customer support and ask to speak with a supervisor. Let them know how much of a hassle these errors have been. Have a reward in mind for how they can keep you as a customer. If you have a credit card, ask them to lower the interest rate. If you’re paying monthly bank fees for your account, ask them to wave them.

If they’re unwilling to do anything for you it’s probably time to move to a new bank.

Act Fast on ATM Issues
You only have 60 days to report an ATM transaction error. So, if the ATM records show that you took out more money than you actually did or vice versa, you must report it promptly or you are out of luck.

A bank error is not the joyous occasion that Monopoly suggests. It’s more like a “Go Directly to Faceless Corporate Bank Hell” card. Follow these ten steps, however, and you’ll survive mostly unscathed.

One more thing…

We’ve noticed on a different blog post – British Lottery Scam – that people are tempted to take a bad check and deposit it, hoping that the bank will become confused and give them the money. Here’s how one poster puts it:

I received the lottery scam in the mail. There is a check enclosed that is to be cashed and sent back to pay the British taxes. What would happen if I cashed the check and kept the cash? Would the scammers loose the money?

Ummm… no. Checks like these are forgeries. The scammers don’t loose money. You just create a problem for yourself by depositing a bad check, temporarily inflating your bank account, and then suddenly having it removed once the bank figures out it’s fraudulent.

Does that sounds fun?

To learn more about bank errors, visit the always excellent bankrate.com.

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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