Account mixup leads to missing money

April 24, 2012 4:12:02 PM PDT
A Houston woman whose account was mistakenly charged more than $200 feared the money was gone forever, until she contacted Action 13. The problem happened nearly a year ago, but we were able to get results anyway.

The error actually happened in June of last year but was not found until January of this year. It highlights two problems -- the errors that can be made with electronic bill paying and the importance of checking your accounts every month.

Susan Levandowski manages a savings account for her mother and while the account has been sitting dormant for years, in June 2011, $210 was taken out, but it went unnoticed by her.

She said, "I had gotten the bank statements from the credit union and I really had not been looking at them. I had not been opening them. I had just been filing them away."

But in January Levandowski saw the withdrawal and knew right away something was wrong because the money went to pay a Comcast bill, and no one in her family has cable.

Levandowski said, "They could not find anything because I was not a Comcast customer, so I kept trying to explain to them, 'No, that it was taken out of the account.'"

Comcast told Levandowski to check with her credit union, but that did not solve the problem either.

"It just went back and forth and back and forth," she said. "I did not feel like I was getting anywhere and that's when I contacted you at Channel 13."

We called both Comcast and First Community Credit Union where the account in question is kept. It turns out the problem started when another First Community Credit Union member paid their Comcast bill electronically, but entered the wrong credit union account number.

Nancy Trennel, Vice President of Marketing for First Community Credit Union, explained, "So Susan, the one who contacted you, was the one whose account was debited."

Trennel says the person who should have paid the bill simply transposed numbers on the account. Legally, financial institutions have 60 days to correct errors of this nature

"Because this was a June transaction of 2011, it then turned in to, 'OK, we have to do this in a different manner,'" Trennel said.

While the money has been refunded, Levandowski realizes she should have kept closer tabs on the account.

"Everybody needs to open every piece of mail they get and take a look at it," she advised. "That's the lesson I have learned here."

The credit union has actually gone back to the person who made the initial routing error and that member is going to reimburse the bank for the error. In the meantime, customers are advised to open those statements right away, because if this had been caught within 60 days the money would have been returned immediately, rather than turning into a months-long project.

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