I was ripped off by SunTrust Bank, their Regulation E Fraud Investigator (April Reaves) and the way banks handle fraud when PIN codes are involved. The bank I use follows the same procedures as other U.S. banks their procedures are unfair and treat victims like criminals. They make it a difficult and lengthy process of getting your money and you only have one shot after they send the form letter that virtually EVERY bank sends to fraud victims whose PINs were compromised.
Basically, if the culprit got your PIN they deny that its fraud because the only way they can get your PIN is if you give it to them. This is wrong, ridiculous, and creates more time between the initial loss and the deserved reimbursement. I hope other victims of bank card fraud will read this story and if you have a similar one to share, lets fight back! I have no doubt that banks have done this to enough people to qualify for a Class Action Lawsuit. So lawyers, please read on as m story will mirror the story of thousands of other victims. And we deserve more than just the amount the bank wouldnt reimburse At this point we deserve a large sum on top of it for the nightmare they out us through.
On July 5th someone from SunTrust called me to verify I was using my card because there were lots of charges for large amounts made that day. I said no that's not me. I'm 3 or 4 hours away from where those transactions are being made. We stayed on the phone for a while discussing details and I found out for the first time that unauthorized transactions occurred on other days, starting on June 30th.
On July 3rd I had given my neighbor, Krystal Cook, a ride to live with her mom near Pensacola as a favor. I woke up in the hotel around 7pm on July 4th and Cook said she wouldve gotten me up sooner but I looked like I needed the rest. Id placed my purse in as safe a position as possible and Cook said she had to move it because her daughter, almost 2, was trying to rummage through it. Having to teach a college course the next day, I got out of bed and headed back to Tallahassee as soon as possible.
When I first heard from Sherlese at SunTrust that my card was being used, I thought I may have left it at a gas station in Milton, FL. I was still communicating with Krystal via texts. She took a long time to give me the name of the gas station and the number so I could ask them about it. I asked multiple times and she finally gave me a number and a person to speak to. I later found out (from Krystal's mother) that she gave me a false number and her brother answered, pretending to be the associate at the station.
I began the process of signing an affidavit at the bank, filing a report with the Tallahassee Police Dept. and opening an investigation with both the bank and the police. April Reaves, the bank investigator conducted an interview over the phone, which mostly consisted of me remembering precisely when, where and how much money I charged on the card.
I have had a poor memory since birth, and was not always confident of when a particular charge was made. She kept pushing until I would give a relatively definite answer even though I was still uncertain. She barely asked me anything about my PIN, which became the primary focus in her decision.
I didn't like that the interview was done on the phone - it is more difficult to judge a person's character over the phone, which means it is harder for those investigators to realize that the client is too honest and ethical to fit the standard form letter Reg E fraud departments send. Maybe that is *why* they do the interview on the phone.
SunTrust had ten days to review my case before replying. On the tenth day I received a letter from April Reaves on behalf of the bank that basically said Im screwed (so the bank has ripped me off). Anyone who has been through this process will laugh out loud at the first paragraph: "Thank you for the opportunity to review the recent fraud claim which you filed on (July 5, 2007). Your satisfaction is of top priority with SunTrust Bank, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve you." I'm sure they do.
The charges I **did not authorize** totaled a little over $5000, which makes it a felony level crime. However, Cook used my PIN in the transactions, and in the USA when someone fraudulently messes with your bank account and uses your PIN, you're basically screwed.
According to the bank, if the person with the debit card uses the client's PIN, then the client is responsible in some way, and must have given permission to use the card - so it is not even a case of fraud. Because they say it isn't fraud, they say they don't have to return your money either.
I didn't even have $5000 in the account, so the flood of transactions made it overdrawn. It was so far in the negative that half of the paychecks I received this summer (through ETS) were sucked into the negative balance despite all efforts to prevent this.
SunTrust's Reg E Fraud Investigator sent a basic form letter. Any time a client's PIN is involved they send this letter. Whether or not the client gave away their PIN the bank says, in effect, you must be working with the so-called criminals so we don't owe you a thing.
I began to write my rebuttal letter - which, in case you haven't gone through this nightmare before, is terrifying itself because you only have ONE CHANCE to argue with the bank's decision. After that, there is nothing you can do aside from taking legal action.
I still havent sent my rebuttal. I must print it from a new computer and the printer wont work properly; I must copy my statement to the police and other documents, and I must read over every word again. The bank claims it isnt fraud because they had my PIN, and that means I gave them permission to use it. Cooks own mother called me about a month ago to explain that Cook told her she watched me enter my PIN at a store (this is called shoulder surfing).
Why would a persons own mother help with an investigation? Apparently Cook had her mother put in jail for some ridiculous reason several years ago, and her mother knew about how much Id intentionally helped Cook and her daughter. Maybe Cooks mother wanted to do something right; I dont know. But she did say she will sign a statement, testify in court, o do anything else necessary for the bank to refund my money.
I am lucky that Cooks mother came forward as the part of the situation I couldnt figure out was how she got my PIN if I never wrote it down. Since the banks standard argument is that I must have given the PIN to the criminal intentionally or they couldnt use the card, I can explain how it was possible that the criminal actually stole my PIN without consent. If she took the PIN without permission & used the card without permission, and with the knowledge and intention of breaking the law (she was on probation for a felony crime related to finances), that is almost the precise legal definition of fraud.
+Here's why a Class Action Lawsuit seems appropriate and inevitable+
Almost EVERY BANK in the country sends this same letter. If they had your PIN it's your fault so it's not even fraud and you must not only recover from your losses, but also pay the extra fees you accrued because of this 'alleged' fraud.
I have done research and found articles on MSN Money and MSNBC.com about this very issue Regulation E fraud division of the banking industry. If someone steals your debit card and gains access to your PIN and there are technologically advanced ways, not just looking over ones shoulder, to do this, the bank will typically send the letter denying that its fraud and refuse to reimburse you for your losses. The customer gets that once chance, the rebuttal letter, to prove it is fraud, and after that nothing is allowed in Reg E policies if the bank says they are still right.
I believe n many ways it is like the movie _The Rainmaker_ There was a medical insurance company that automatically denied every request for benefits, and then only had to deal with those who fought back.
Lets fight back! If your bank denied your fraud claim because the criminal had somehow accessed your PIN, check out the articles about bank fraud on MSN Money and MSNBC.com Banks cant keep refusing to reimburse clients just because our PINs were stolen too. Its also unfair that we only hey ONE chance to prove them wrong.
As I said, I havent finished the rebuttal process so there is a chance I will get my money I worked hard on the letter and my evidence is solid. Its wrong to not even bother to do much investigation if the PIN was used. I dont know this for sure, but I asked to see Ms. Reaves case notes and she told me she had to check with the legal department. In my experience you only ned to check with legal you believe you have something to hide, or that might cause a legal problem. If she had no notes at all that would verify my theory that they see the PIN is used and automatically send this form letter. Then they only deal with those who fight back.
Its wrong to do the investigation over the phone as that isnt conducive to a thorough evaluation. Its wrong for the banks to get away with sending form letter that sy youre screwed if the crook got your PIN. Its wrong that you only get one chance to prove the bank wrong and technically you must prove the impossible. They say there are no facts to indicate that I didnt give someone my PIN, so I must prove that I didnt. I cant prove that; no one can. I can only prove that it was actually fraud. But in the meantime my life has fallen apart. You might call it Pain & Sufferng or Emotional Damages.
I am posting this even though I havent sent my rebuttal because SunTrust already ripped me off the moment I got the letter saying its not even a case of fraud. Those procedures might be protocol in banking at the moment but they are cruel and unjust and banks must be held accountable for treating their clients this way! The national banking system is *ripping off everyone* who has a genuine case of fraud and is denied their true right to their money, especially now that its so easy to use technology to get information.
So the bank might give me my money; who knows. Either way this injustice affects every state in the country, and until banks are cornered the way credit card companies were cornered to develop more sympathetic regulations, it looks like the only words any bank will listen to are words from a brave team of lawyers who decide the banks have ripped off enough people and a Class Action suit (Or set of Congressional Hearings) is in order.
If you have a story like this please share it, and let all the passion and frustration you feel come through in your story, so potential legal assistance will see how quickly others would join this fight to make banks treat fraud victims like victims instead of criminals. We shouldnt be ripped off twice when our debit cards are stolen, right?