Someone withdrew money from my checking account (in several transactions) without my knowledge or permission. I was able to see the withdrawal slips online, and my signature was forged. I reported this to my bank as soon as I found out, and Chase said that the money would be reimbursed once they completed their investigation (within 10 business days).

It has now been 13 business days, and I have checked on the status twice and was told both times that there had been no status update, and they were unable to provide an updated ETA.

It's a fairly large amount of money, and I need to get it back as soon as possible. I'm trying to figure out if I have legal footing here. Does the law protect me from this type of fraud? And if so, does it require the bank to respond within any particular timeframe?

I live in California.

  • 3
    This seems like the kind of question that can be answered without hiring a lawyer.
    – jimsug
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 22:55
  • Have you called the county Sheriff? Make out a police report.
    – dwoz
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 3:38
  • Lawyer will be able to do something pretty quick. At least get a free consultation. Our answers lack the expediency he requires and he would most likely still have to go through the process.
    – Viktor
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 13:32
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    It wasn't that much money for me (only 4k). If it's like 40k or something, it will get investigated and it may take a while. Also, they will investigate if you knew the person (assuming they find out who it is) and will also match your signature against the forged signature, etc.. You also have a duty to keep a negotiable instrument reasonably safe, so they will prob need an affidavit about if checks are missing, when you knew, etc. IF it was someone you know who did it, they'll need to established it was not a conspiracy, you will get it back, it just may take bit more. I'd call daily.
    – gracey209
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 3:47
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    I had something like that happen to me 7 years ago. It was about 5k worth of money and at the time, I tried to work with the bank. My advice after having to deal with that, is that 7 years latter, I regret not filing a police report. Reasons are that it is easy to explain if the bank goes against you and says it was your money and the bank now has to deal with outside forces which can assist you. I would also file a report with the CFPB if you'r in the US
    – Jdahern
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 18:10

3 Answers 3


I reported this to my bank as soon as I found out, and Chase said that the money would be reimbursed once they completed their investigation (within 10 business days).

Chase was likely indicating that the money will be reimbursed within 10 business days of completing their investigation; not 10 business days from the date you told the that someone forged checks on your account. This would make sense when you think about it, as they need to make sure that you were not complicit in the crime (you would be surprised how many people have had someone cash multiple checks from their account only to split the money with them and file a claim for fraudulent transfer/forgery). Further, checks are a negotiable instrument, unlike a credit/debit card, where specific protections exist pursuant to its terms and conditions of use. You have a duty to keep a negotiable instrument safe, and while most banks will reimburse you if it can be established that you had no involvement and you were not grossly negligent in the keeping of the instruments, it is a different animal in and of itself.

It has now been 13 business days, and I have checked on the status twice and was told both times that there had been no status update, and they were unable to provide an updated ETA.

Unless your bank indicated in the disclosures of the checking account application and acceptance documentation that in the event of a stolen check you will be reimbursed in X amount of days, they have the absolute right to complete their investigation before reimbursing any funds to your account.

It's a fairly large amount of money, and I need to get it back as soon as possible. I'm trying to figure out if I have legal footing here. Does the law protect me from this type of fraud? And if so, does it require the bank to respond within any particular timeframe?

Federal banking regulations provide broad protections to consumers when it comes to fraud involving credit/debit cards, as these are easily stolen from all sorts of means. That said, checks do not carry the same protections, although oftentimes some. National banks may be required to reimburse customers for forged checks. However, based on individual circumstances, the bank can investigate to determine if the customer is entitled to a reimbursement. There is not duty to reimburse until the investigation is complete. This is why I think you've potentially misconstrued what they said about how long it would take. They cannot promise a time certain when they don't know how long the investigation will take.

Whether the bank is liable for the customer's loss depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Generally, a bank is liable for accepting a check that has been forged, altered, or improperly endorsed. However, if the bank can prove two things — that it accepted the check in good faith and exercised ordinary care and diligence in handling the transaction — it may not be liable.

If your actions — the way the check or checkbook was handled, issued, completed, or made payable — contributed to the making of the forgery, you may be at least partially liable. Generally, the bank will require you to complete an affidavit. It may also request that you file a police report.

** Addition: I forgot to mention that if the checks were not "cashed" (i.e. filled out to cash or cashed in person), but rather were presented to a 3rd party for payment in receipt of goods or services, you are also going to need to contact those individuals or businesses (their name is on the check) and alert them to the fraud, and allow them to contact their banks, lest you will be assessed fees by them for insufficient funds if your bank later takes the money back as a result of the investigation.

Also, in the event the checks were recreated rather than stolen, or if you don't know exactly how many were stolen, you are going to need to close your account while you wait for the investigation to bear fruit (hopefully), and open a new account, as you now have a duty to account for any and all checks stolen at that event (so, if you know a book is out there and 10 checks have cleared you know there are 15 remaining that the bank is not going to cover if you don't take steps to protect yourself). One would think they've asked you this and have already done something to prevent further checks from coming in, but if not, you need to get on it. Also, you may want to hire your own investigator if you have the funds to do so. While stolen cards are often strangers, stolen checks (unless it's one washed check) is nearly always someone you know.

  • Thanks! Very helpful. A couple of clarifications: (1) Chase definitely said that the money would be reimbursed within 10 business days of receiving my affidavit (though I wouldn't say they "promised" that). Still waiting as of writing this. (2) I don't believe it was someone I know. My information was compromised in a third party data breach (my SSN and DL# were also used to open credit card applications). As far as I know, no actual checks were stolen. The thief withdrew the money at a bank branch by writing in my account number and forging my signature on a withdrawal slip.
    – Eric
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 14:12
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    oh wow! That is much different than a forged check. I apologize for the misunderstanding.When you said withdrew money, i just assumed stolen checks.You will almost certainly get the money back then. They just need to finish their investigation before they can put a claim into the FDIC.
    – gracey209
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 14:16
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    I had about 4k stolen from my checking about 15 yrs ago or so. IDK how much you had stolen, this wasn't that much, but they took over a month to return it to my account and this was without any investigation. They REFUSED to investigate, even though a pick pocket got my card at a grocery, used it to buy 200 dollars in booze right while I was there, then went up the street I was on buying things, all at places with cameras, until getting stopped at Walmart trying to buy a flat screen bc I had called the bank to cancel the card, realizing when I went to check out it had been stolen!
    – gracey209
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 14:58
  • They said that little amount wasn't worth investigating!
    – gracey209
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 14:58
  • Wow, mine was a little under 8k, so not all that different.
    – Eric
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 16:22

You will need to identify a defendant in order to bring any claim.

This isn't something you have a lot of control over - only law enforcement can require the production of surveillance records in the absence of court proceedings (you would otherwise subpoena such records from the bank). You'd need to contact the police in order to have them investigate, and until they identify a suspect, there's no way for you to proceed.

Forgery - California Penal Code 470 makes it a crime to commit fraud by forging a signature.

You therefore wouldn't be bringing a claim against the defendant - the State would. I also am not aware of statutory restitution requirements for forgery in California, so you would need to rely on restitution ordered in a sentence passed upon a favorable verdict.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, there's no statutory time limit on the production of records, however intentional and excessive delays may leave the subject of the warrant or subpoena open to action for obstruction.

  • 4
    Defendant: bank. The bank is required to check signatures and reject obvious forgeries.
    – Joshua
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 22:18
  • @Joshua can you provide a source for that? And also - where is it stated in the facts that the forgery was obvious? I think you've made an unfounded assumption. In fact, if the forgeries were obvious, I would expect that to have been included in the original question as a salient fact.
    – jimsug
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 22:32
  • 2
    Source for responsibility to check signatures. Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 20:55
  • @AndrewLazarus there's no source.. it says Not Authorized to View This Page [CFN #0004] Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 1:49
  • Link rot! Check the Uniform Commercial Code, § 4-401(a). Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 6:11

Disclaimer: This depends on the jurisdiction, but probably holds in many places. I am not a lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction, or a lawyer. This is just information I picked up here and there, mostly in England.

A bank account is a debt - you have loaned the bank money, repayable on your demand.

Your account balance is not "your money" - it is an accounting of how much they owe you (or if you have an overdraft, how much you owe them).

It is a debt payable on demand, and a cheque is such a demand.

However a fraudulent cheque is not a valid demand, and if the bank pays on a fraudulent cheque, this does not reduce their debt to you.

"So somebody pretended they were me, asked for money, and you believed them. How is that my problem?"

It does not matter:

  • how good the forgery was,
  • how much care they took
  • whether they were negligent or not

It only matters if it was a valid demand by you, someone authorized by you, or someone you've agreed in your contract that they may take to be authorized.

(This means for example that if you give your credit card to someone, e.g. a child or spouse, then you have authorized them to spend your money, and that's your responsibility; but if your credit card is stolen, then it is not your responsibility.)

Who decides

The court decides, if it goes to court.

Once you have made a valid demand for full payment, you can sue them for the full amount you are owed.

Generally you must say something like this:

  • What you want: I want such-and-such amount of money
  • Why you are entitled to it: Because that is what the bank owes me, and their accounting is wrong, because that cheque was a forgery.
  • What you want the court to do: And I want the court to order them to pay me.

You will have to produce evidence. This might be:

  • Your cheque stubs, proving that you didn't write the cheque
  • Your testimony on oath, swearing that you didn't write or authorize the payment.
  • Proof you were not in the place where the payment was made.
  • Some other form of evidence.

Once you have provided some evidence (even if it is only your sworn testimony) it is up to the bank to provide their evidence.

The court will decide who they believe, and you will either get your money, or not.

What to do

Probably best to let the bank sort it out. This sort of thing happens a lot, and most big banks are pretty good at sorting it out.

That's good if this is a genuine mistake by the bank (they paid when they shouldn't have), but if you are trying to defraud the bank, then it's bad for you, because they also deal with that a lot.

It will probably take longer than you would like, but if you keep hassling them then they will probably either get to the bottom of it, or give up and reimburse you.

If you suffer any consequential losses, such as from being unable to pay bills and getting penalties, they may well agree to pay those too, provided you are polite but insistent.

But be careful:

  • If it turns out that it was your son or daughter, you may be bringing the criminal law down on them. That's probably not what you want.
  • So first be absolutely sure that you don't know who it was, and that you are happy to do that.

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