4

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 Oct 23 '15 at 22:55
  • Have you called the county Sheriff? Make out a police report. – dwoz Oct 24 '15 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 Oct 24 '15 at 13:32
  • has it been 13 business days? or 13 days>? Also, there was just a holiday (in some states), so if it's been 13 days, it would really need to be 15 days because a business day does not include saturday, sunday, or a holiday.The bank does not have to respond in any certain amount of time unless your banking agreement (terms of service and disclosures) states that it does, but the bank gets a reasonable amount of time to investigate. This happened to me years ago (debit card stolen) and they put it back in right away....however they refused to investigate who did it. – gracey209 Oct 28 '15 at 3:39
  • 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 Oct 28 '15 at 3:47
4
+50

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 Oct 29 '15 at 14:12
  • 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 Oct 29 '15 at 14:16
  • 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 Oct 29 '15 at 14:58
  • They said that little amount wasn't worth investigating! – gracey209 Oct 29 '15 at 14:58
  • Wow, mine was a little under 8k, so not all that different. – Eric Oct 29 '15 at 16:22
2

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.

  • 1
    Defendant: bank. The bank is required to check signatures and reject obvious forgeries. – Joshua Nov 18 '16 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 Nov 18 '16 at 22:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.