Take My Money!
February 13, 2005 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Embarrassment of riches filter: I have a Bank of America account, and about two weeks ago I noticed that they had erroneously deposited approximately $1,400 of extra interest from some savings bonds into my account. I called to notify them of their error, and after playing phone tag, they eventually realized that the deposit was a mistake and assured me that they'd take back the money. Bizarrely, they still haven't, which is starting to get annoying. After a certain period of time, do I get to keep the money? If not, can I do something to get them to actually take it back?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total)
 
It'd have to be a really long time before you get to keep the money. You'd have to talk to a lawyer about that and if they took it and you wanted to sue to keep it (or vice versa), it would cost you a lot more than $1400 in legal and court fees.

Since you already informed them, I would just leave the money in your account forever until they take it back. Eventually they may do an audit that causes it to pop up. Or they might not.

If you really, really want it out of your account, then send them a letter. A letter to their legal department saying that if the money is still retained in your account within a month you'll consider it yours would probably do the trick.
posted by grouse at 5:55 PM on February 13, 2005


From experience working at a bank: do not spend it. Call the bank again asap.
posted by Quartermass at 6:11 PM on February 13, 2005


Withdraw it as cash and keep it under your bed. When they come asking for it give it to them, I'd say after a year you should feel free to spend it.
posted by pwb503 at 6:12 PM on February 13, 2005


The financial rule of thumb is that you should keep all of your information for seven years. That's how long it take for credit to get cleared up, that's how long banks keep statements on record for, etc. So, I'd say at least that amount of time until you're in the clear. I would suggest making another phone call or two, maybe go into the bank and speak to a manager to get it cleared up. Then you don't have to think about it anymore. Unless you want to wait seven years...
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:13 PM on February 13, 2005


When they come asking for it give it to them, I'd say after a year you should feel free to spend it.

I realize that this is a joke, but the bank might not even ask for it. They might just remove it from the account one day and blame paperwork for the delay. You'll go to the ATM and see that your account is $1400 less. Until this is cleared up, be sure you don't allow your account to fall below that magic amount, or you're going to have troubles with overdraft fees, etc.

A letter to their legal department saying that if the money is still retained in your account within a month you'll consider it yours would probably do the trick.

Also, claiming the legal right to the money and an ultimatum about a time, won't make it yours. It's still their money, despite what you may claim. It might catch their attention though...
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:20 PM on February 13, 2005


A letter to their legal department saying that if the money is still retained in your account within a month you'll consider it yours would probably do the trick.

Any lawyer would laugh at this.

But, write them a letter anyway, and send a copy to a relevant address at the SEC. $1400 is a relatively small sum, but it probably means that some other securities account is $1400 less than it should be, which is a more serious problem on their part. Getting the SEC involved should get it straightened out quickly.

Whatever you do, don't withdraw it, lest that be the day they decide to take it back and then nail you for insufficient funds. I would, however, threaten to take your money elsewhere and start demanding some free stuff (like waiving monthly fees).

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.
posted by mkultra at 6:21 PM on February 13, 2005


Send a letter.

Dear Bank,

You've still not fixed my account. Please fix it immediately.

If you do not fix it, and your negligence in this matter requires me to hire legal representation to ensure that you perform your duty and leave my accounts free of encumbrance, rest assured that I will press suit in the appropriate venue for lawyer's fees and for the value of my own time spent dealing with this problem that is entirely of your own creation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:34 PM on February 13, 2005


Banks have very good auditing systems and eventually they will catch this, even if the drone you informed did nothing. Don't spend the money. Perhaps they will keep paying you interest on it. If you actually keep your account balanced, God bless you, and it really annoys you, then make a pest of yourself. Otherwise, let it sit and wait; eventually it will go away. If you are really annoyed, take out all but the $1,400 and send them a letter closing the account and informing them again that the remaining balance is a mistake.
posted by caddis at 6:37 PM on February 13, 2005


You're not going to get to keep that money. Don't even think about that. It's not your money, and it's never going to be your money.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:42 PM on February 13, 2005


Once they figure out where it came from, the bank will absolutely positively debit your account for it, and if you say, "You left it there!!" they will say, "You knew it wasn't yours." So, yeah. Call back, visit a branch, something, but don't spend it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:44 PM on February 13, 2005


You guys missed my point. The letter I suggested would not give him a legal right to the money. But I'm damn sure it would get the money out of his account quickly.
posted by grouse at 6:46 PM on February 13, 2005


A letter to the legal department, as grouse suggests, regardless of what it says or threatens, probably will get some results if only that another set of eyes will review the problem.
posted by caddis at 7:02 PM on February 13, 2005


I wonder what would happen if you withdrew it in cash, walked over to the bank manager's desk, explained the situation, and handed it to him.
posted by nicwolff at 7:03 PM on February 13, 2005


After you die, they'd probably have a hard time forcing your heirs to return the money. Let them spend it, then.

Only partly joking.
posted by NortonDC at 7:16 PM on February 13, 2005


and handed it to him... in pennies!
posted by Quartermass at 7:21 PM on February 13, 2005


there was a previous askme question (which I can't find) that was very similar (though there the slant was that the questioner wanted ways to trick the bank out of the money, as I recall). The consensus was that under no circumstances should you withdraw this money, consider it yours, spend it, etc. Also, some people (who had worked at banks) suggested that it would also be a bad idea to be in any way difficult about it.
posted by advil at 7:35 PM on February 13, 2005


You mean those Monopoly Chance and Community Chest cards are worthless?
posted by brent at 7:36 PM on February 13, 2005


I'd close all your accounts immediately and take the money to a different bank. They may come after you for it, but for $1400 I'd be willing to change banks on the chance that they don't and you get to keep it.

You can't beat the bank, though. If they decide they want it back they'll get it out of you one way or another. I don't know what a bank could do to your credit report, but I imagine there aren't too many limits on how much they could screw you over.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:22 PM on February 13, 2005


Don't touch it. The bean counters in the bank's proof department will fix the error and send you a notice letting you know about the adjustment made to your account.
/works for BoA

Or you could be like the guy who insisted on keeping an absurd amount of money credited to his account after his bank erroneously processed a fake check. We talked about that a while ago over here. Chances are, even if you fight the bank like that guy did, you still won't get to keep the money.
posted by emelenjr at 8:33 PM on February 13, 2005


You can't beat the bank, though. If they decide they want it back they'll get it out of you one way or another. I don't know what a bank could do to your credit report, but I imagine there aren't too many limits on how much they could screw you over.

Very true. For example, banks can add you to a national blacklist. Once on this list, you will have a extremely hard time opening up a new account at any bank in the country.
posted by reverendX at 9:47 PM on February 13, 2005


I'm pretty sure you can't keep the money, for several reasons:
1) It's not your money
2) You know it is not your money
3) You have made the bank aware that it is not your money

And, money in a bank is not like "lost property" that will eventually belong to the lucky finder after a certain period of time. Money is never "lost" in this sense. If you withdraw the money, the bank could come after you for fraud or theft.

However, you do have the right to complain for such shoddy service. Direct your complaints to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (which is the division of the Department of the Treasury that regulates banks). The SEC has zero jurisdiction in matters like this, and anything you send to them is sure to be ignored.
posted by thewittyname at 9:55 PM on February 13, 2005


Send them a cheque for the $1400 dollars with a letter explaining that they incorrectly placed the money in your account, and you are now returning it. This is likely to confuse them and provide you with entertainment.
posted by seanyboy at 4:06 AM on February 14, 2005


Leave it there, Do not authorise the bank to take it unless they can prove it should not be there.
In a similiar situation I notified the bank of a deposit that was not mine and they were eager to take it back. I insisted that before they do so, they explain the error in writing. As they were never able to identify their error, I used the money about a year after my notification (> $2k).
posted by DBAPaul at 6:20 AM on February 14, 2005


Clark Howard gets asked this question a lot. As he explains it, you've encountered one of the many injustices in federal banking law. If the bank makes an error in their favor (that is, takes money from you), you have a very limited time to notice and request to get your money back. If the bank makes an error in your favor (gives you money), they have an unlimited time to notice the error and take the money back. If it's in your account, they can take it without notice. If the money is no longer in your account, they can and will prosecute, even if many years have passed.

I've been trying to google up the exact law, but have had trouble finding it. I think the time you have is 45 days (only one statement's worth of time), and I know the time they have is unlimited.

So, to sum up: leave the money right where it is, or you risk at best a double-debit and at worst prison time. Don't even withdraw it and hand it straight to the branch manager, as someone in another office may be taking the money at the same time. Complaining loudly may make them speed up the process, but that's about all you can do.
posted by ewagoner at 7:06 AM on February 14, 2005


If you absolutely need to keep it separate from your own money, couldn't you open another account with BoA (perhaps some sort of savings account) - transfer the money into it, write to tell the bank what you've done, and then forget about it.

Perhaps occasionally you could skim off any interest that it's earned, but I don't whether this would be frowned upon!
posted by Chunder at 7:35 AM on February 14, 2005


No, they couldn't open a new account and put the money into it. Although it would be easy for the bank to trace the transfer of funds if both accounts are in the same bank, it's best to not assume the bank thinks with enough logic to take a nice long look at the account before removing the money. This is especially true since some banks can only search immediate records going back a couple months and must dig up statements for anything longer than that.

Don't play games with the money. Just go to the branch in person, if you can, and have the manager run the transaction for you in person. And make sure they put a note on the account of what happened as well as have them right up something so that you have a paper trail.
posted by Arch Stanton at 2:01 PM on February 14, 2005


« Older Can anyone recommend a Windows...   |  stereofilter: I'm interested i... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.