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Bank Error Not In Your Favor? Here’s What To Do

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Wasn’t it great whenever you pulled up that yellow Community Chest card in Monopoly that awarded you with $200? In real life, that almost never happens and usually, in the event of an error, it’s always not in your favor. So what do you do? In most cases, you want to call your bank and make sure you have all the pertinent information so that they can resolve it as quickly as possible. In some cases, you’ll want to contact other agencies because fraud could be involved.

ATM Withdrawal or Deposit Discrepancies

First tip: Never deposit cash via an ATM. I never deposit cash in an ATM because if the envelope is lost, which is rarely is but definitely possible, there is absolutely no proof that I put cash into an envelope. With checks, at the very least you can ask the issuer to put out a stop payment and re-issue the check. In the event of a large check deposit into an ATM, I always take the ATM receipt because it identifies the time and ATM I used (the amount deposited is useless from the bank’s perspective because you entered it).

On withdrawals, if you request $100 and get only $20, your account will still be debited $100 unless you contact the bank. They can usually resolve the register and figure out where the mistake was and properly debit your account.

Automatic Debits You Didn’t Authorize



With the advent of Check 21 and the fact that banks don’t even need to send the paper checks around anymore, more and more check transactions are merely automatic debits and credits after some paper processing. At many banks, they just scan the front and back of the check and then process the electronic information, shredding the checks afterwards. As we all know, the OCR (optical character recognition) is pretty good but not 100% accurate, so what happens if there is a mis-read? This is the same procedure you should follow if you’ve fallen victim to an automatic debit scam, call your bank and notify them of the mistake. Usually they can trace back into their records, locate the check, and fix the error without incident. If you’ve been scammed, in addition to calling your bank, call your state’s attorney general as they will investigate and go after the scammer.

{ 16 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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16 Responses to “Bank Error Not In Your Favor? Here’s What To Do”

  1. Chris says:

    Be sure to request that your bank not charge you for the phone call to report the problem! My bank, Wells Fargo, charges you $2 when you call and talk to someone when they had the solution on the website or the automated phone tree. They shouldn’t charge you when you have problems like this, but I can’t recall ever calling the call center of a large company without something being done wrong.

    When the ATM recorded a single deposit twice, then debited the account once (an apparent error correction in the machine) it of course applied $100 of my deposit to the available balance and subsequently withdrew $600 (the whole amount of the deposit) while the remaining $1,100 (the deposit twice minus the $100) sat in pending. Fortunately I had enough to cover the temporary loss, but I had to call them in order to figure out what was going on.

    Thus began a 6 month adventure of trying to get them to stop charging me a $2 fee. At the initial call they said it would be waived, it wasn’t…so I had to call back. The CSR would waive it again, and again it would appear at the end of the month’s statement cycle. And so on and so on about 5-6 times. They called it a “glitch”. I called it a “lets see if the customer isn’t paying attention fee”.

  2. Slava says:

    I’d like to add my 2 cents to this article:

    Bank of America introduced new ATM where it scans your checks and cash. They are very useful and will help avoid error with deposits. I’ve used it few times to deposit checks and cash and every time it recognized correct deposit. AND when you deposit check it will print a copy of a check on your slip.

  3. Melissa says:

    A few weeks ago my boyfriend stopped at an ATM to withdraw money, the ATM debited his account the $200 but no money dispensed. He immediately contacted both his bank (this was not at his bank) and the bank who’s ATM it was to report the problem. A few weeks later we received a letter saying the transaction was processed correctly, and even though we know that isn’t true there appears to be nothing we can do about it. The only thing I can figure is that the next customer got both their money and ours so the total in the machine was correct. His bank just said tough luck….

    • Jamie says:

      Were either of the two banks Bank Of America?
      I cashed a $4,400 check with these people once and left the building with $4,200.
      They are not to be trusted!

  4. Kiran says:

    I actually had a bank error in my favor once.

    I opened a CD at my bank a few years ago and it took over a week to get it all set up. Holds on my account for transferring such a large sum into savings ($10000), had something to do with it.

    Do to the delay the branch vice president said he would open up the account as soon as the hold cleared so I wouldn’t have to come back for a third time. 2 weeks later over the weekend I checked my account balances online and I had the 10k CD and still had that 10k in my savings account. I resolved to go and sort this out with the VP that Tuesday, but he called me that morning and asked where exactly was the money for my CD was supposed to come from. So it cleared up.

    I figure it was justice since I lost out on a week of the good CD rate, but earned interest in my money market savings for two weeks, so the interset amounts were pretty equal.

  5. MoneyNing says:

    Either way, it would be a HUGE hassle if the ATM screws up on your deposit. I guess the easy thing to do is to just deposit them at the bank.

    The other thing is hopefully everyone starts to learn how to electronically transfer money to your account since it is easier for everyone (assuming people are more and more familiar with the computing world).

  6. Scott says:

    I must be the lucky one that’s never had an error not in my favor and actually had one that was in my favor. I went to a Bank of America ATM I visited while on business in New Jersey about a year and a half ago and took out $100. I got five bills and assumed they were all 20′s. Until a little further down the road when I needed to use the money I realized that two of the bills were 50′s… a cool $60 error in my favor – made the long trip home much more pleasant.

  7. allen says:

    Once upon a time, I decided i wanted to withdraw $20 for lunch while downtown. I went to my bank’s ATM to avoid fees, and was surprised when the machine said that i had insufficient funds.

    “What’s this?” I asked, confused, and beginning to be scared, “I should have over two thousand dollars in there!” I quickly used the ATM to do an account balance.

    “You have a balance of -$21,085,” said the machine.

    I quickly went inside the bank (luckily they were still open for another hour that Saturday), told the lone teller what my problem was, and 15 minutes later was able to talk to a manager. It turns out that a teller SOMEWHERE had issued a withdrawal, but had transposed two numbers, my account for theirs. Which makes me wonder why the issued the money if it was that far in the negative…

  8. Byron says:

    I deposited 520.00 and when my wife called the bank to get a balance, the deposit had gone in twice. not sure what to do. Part of me wants to not say anything, but I don’t want it to bite me back later down the road. Any advice?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Charlie

    Lost deposit slip copy

    I lost my Deposit slip and I need it as proof that I did in fact pay the rent on my flat in December 2007.and make matters worse I am not sure on the date on which I deposited the money please,please Help me!!!!

  10. Oscar says:

    The new scanning atms should help with some of the envelope issues, but they are still far off from being 100% accurate. Just keep an eye on your bank account regularly for inconsistencies.

  11. Nicole says:

    Byron- call them and tell them about it. it happened to us with a large check and we did not notice because we had large deposits every week and 3 months later they discovered the error and took out their money overdrawing our account.

  12. Edistone says:

    Recently and quite by accident I was involved in a mistaken bank transfer into my account. The bank manager told me that if I refused to return the mistaken transfer I would be within my rights to do so and that the bank would support my decision.

    This information to me was quite staggering since exactly the same type of incident occurred with me some twenty years ago when a building society transferred into my account a large sum of money by their mistake. The resulting upheaval to me was a life changing event which ultimately cost me my job, my family, my marriage and my life style within the UK at the time. The Building Society “came after” me with a vengeance trying to get it’s money back a year or so later. Involved – I was even suspected of fraud and money laundering after my arrest by the police.

    In my naivete I offered to repay the now spent money with the help of my family but the court appearance ‘had to go ahead’. Advised by criminal solicitors I just laid down and accepted the consequences.

    The recent bank manager’s remarks to me certainly gave me some sleepless nights in my self-imposed exile abroad after my character was completely ruined at home in the UK. Needless to say I had already instructed him to get the money out of my account and back again as quickly as possible – which he did.

    So I am now looking for help to redress what I now believe to be a very serious miscarriage of justice. I have a new life here in and am now of an age when I would prefer not have to consider seriously fighting a heavy legal battle being well retired. However I do have a wife and a small family and we get by on my teacher’s pension and old age pension. Obviously if I have a case then I also have a duty to seek redress for this situation.

    So I am looking for a solicitor very experienced in this kind of work who could advise me. On a preliminary calculation I estimate my direct losses to be well in excess of 250,000 gbp without any attempt to cost out the loss of my marriage and former family which is complete. I have also spent the last 20 years or so abroad in a foreign environment, where incidentally, I intend to stay, away from this travesty of British Justice. However I recommend anybody in this position to get the error straightened out a.s.a.p. for their own peace of mind and safety.

    Just for the record: I suffered huge losses and massive change in my lifestyle, a criminal sentence – and record – AFTER having paid back the cash. Then followed the loss of my job, professional disqualification for life, complete character assassination and complete personal ruin for THEIR mistake of 16,000 gbp against losses I can only guesstimate at at least a million gbp. So: Don’t do it! Play safe and keep clear.

  13. Silvia says:

    On the year 2007 I went to the Bank America to open a saving account. My first request was I want the money to be in account that will be easy for mi to take out. The money was in my regular checking account, this money was after taxes, the lady from the bank open and traditional IRA with out talk to me about what are the regulation. Since you go to the bank and you expect that the person know. she filled the paper and then told me to sing which I did. last year 2012 I transfer the money to a Credit union. On October 2012 I took some money out and I have to pay taxes. all of this year I ignore that there is two IRA. one regular ant the second is Roth IRA The Bank America do not want to understand that was not my mistake. the lady knew that money it was from my paycheck and it was after taxes. What can I do?

  14. Silvio says:

    @Silvia,

    You can withdraw what you need from either or both of the retirement accounts and pay the penalty to the IRS at tax time. Whichever account was opened incorrectly by the bank is the one you can complain about. If your complaint to the bank is not answered to your satisfaction, you can complain to the government.

  15. Nan says:

    Wells Fargo has caused major problems when my boyfriend deposited his paycheck in his account through the ATM at Wells Fargo. They put it in his account only to take it back out 4 business days later saying the issuer had insufficient funds. They didnt have it in “pending” it was in his account. He works for a big company and since no other employee had this we knew it was Wells Fargo. He contacted Wells Fargo and they said they would mail a photocopy of the check, it would be there in 3-5 days, and he could resubmit it. He contacted his payroll department who contacted WSFS who issued the check. They found out the problem right away. Wells Fargo had transpozed the account numbers. WSFS bank wrote and sent via fax, email and USPS a letter to Wells Fargo who claims they didn’t receive it. Wells Fargo refused to contact WSFS or initiate an investigation. They wouldn’t accept an email from him forwarding the letter from WSFS. The only way for him to resolve this, so they say, is his personal appearance in the local branch with the original document from WSFS. So far he has a $12 fee for them to take the “bad” check out ??what?? and $35 for a bounced check he wrote. He will have a few more overdraft fees once they reach the bank. He has to leave work early so he can get to the local branch before it closes. Wells Fargo isn’t cooperating or being the least bit helpful. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I wish he could charge Wells Fargo for their mistake.


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