REcourse for fake bill from bank?
September 8, 2012 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I withdrew money from Bank of America and received a fake 100$ note. What recourse do I have?

I withdrew several hundred dollars from my savings account in 100$ bills at a BOA branch. When go go home I noticed one of the bills looked weird, swiped it with a counterfeit pen, and it shows up fake. Would the bank refund this money? Can I prove it's theirs with the serial number or something?
posted by WeekendJen to Work & Money (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought would be to go to the branch and tell them what you told us.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:52 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take the bill to the bank (I would bring the rest of the cash, too, if you still have it handy,) and tell them you received what you believe to be a counterfeit bill. They should take the bill and have you fill out paperwork, from there it's out of your hands. Unfortunately, it also means that you have to trust that the investigation will go your way. It should, but I would go back to the bank ASAP. Today. Now.
posted by InsanePenguin at 11:57 AM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yep, ASAP to the bank. They should have a record of the serial numbers of the bills they hand out (I think, not sure).
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:05 PM on September 8, 2012

I'm pretty sure they don't track serial numbers but they'll know you just pulled some hundreds out, so yes... asap to the bank!
posted by small_ruminant at 12:08 PM on September 8, 2012

I think you will lose the $100. They have no way of knowing if you took out the $100s and replaced it with your own fake.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:20 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately the general rule with counterfeit money is the last person holding it is the one out the money. Since you didn't notice it at the branch I don't think you will get your $100 back but you might.

You should take it back to the branch anyway as they are set up to report it and hand it over to the secret service.
posted by magnetsphere at 12:33 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Go to the bank, but like JohnnyGunn, I'm not awfully optimistic about this working out well for you. The worst-case is that they call the police and accuse YOU of being the one passing fake bills.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:35 PM on September 8, 2012

If the branch is closed call them immediately and report it. Don't wait for Monday.

When a BofA ATM lost a deposit I made a few years ago I learned that in many cases the the branch the ATM is attached to no longer manages it, the armored van company that manages the ATMs that aren't attached to the banks manage the branch ATMs, too. So when I reported the problem to the branch the best they could do is let me borrow the branch manager's office and phone to call the 800 number on the back of my card.

With counterfeit money it might be different since the bank will want to get the bill from you and the branch is the best place to get it from you. With a bank as big as BofA, this probably happens all the time and so they have a procedure in place.

I'm more optimistic about you getting your $100 back than JohnnyGunn since the bank will want to keep you as a customer and unless you account is brand new, have a history of passing bad checks or trying to pass counterfeit bills, they'll probably credit your account $100 on Monday and open an investigation and they'll find that it was indeed counterfeit and you're weren't opening yourself up to federal charges for passing a fake $100 bill to screw them out of $100 bucks. That is what they did when they lost my deposit. They credited the amount the next business day for the full amount $1500 temporarily while they investigated and a week later sent me a letter snail mail saying they've completed the investigation and the temporary credit was permanent.
posted by birdherder at 12:35 PM on September 8, 2012

Would I would do is less ethical. It's likely that if you return the bill to the bank, they'll just take it and you're out $100. But perhaps if they are somehow tracked, then you may have a chance at getting your money back. The only way to know is to call your bank and ask them anonymously that you received and $100 fake and would like to know what happens when you return it. Unless they lie to you, you'll know whether or not you're going to get your 100 back. I'd say if you're not going to get it back, try to spend it somewhere else. Why should you be on the hook for a faulty system?
posted by Sonic_Molson at 12:38 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to go against the grain and say that you shouldn't report this to the bank, at least not at first. I am extremely skeptical that the bank would in any way admit fault (or even the possibility of fault). There is also the non-zero chance of them accusing you of fraud and your ending up in handcuffs.

If it were me, I'd report it straight to the top. Investigating counterfeiting is one of the primary roles of the Secret Service, and, unlike your bank, they do not have a vested interest in shirking all possible liability and leaving you the blame.
posted by matlock expressway at 12:38 PM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

This happened to me several years ago. I still had the ATM receipt so I brought it, along with the fake bill into the bank and they gave me a new one with no discussion at all. (The extent of the exchange was literally like, would you prefer another $100 bill or fifties or twenties?)
posted by kate blank at 12:51 PM on September 8, 2012 [11 favorites]

I think you should not try to spend it. Most people check if bills that large are fake, and deliberately trying to spend fake money is not going to go well for you if you get caught.

I second that you should contact the bank about this, and that you should call anonymously and ask to avoid any risk of having accusations leveled at you. You're probably out the hundred, unless the branch camera is focused enough to have caught a defining feature of the bills (like serial numbers) when they were being counted out to you.

That said, I am astonished that a bank isn't checking bills before distributing them. So I think you should definitely lodge a complaint.
posted by windykites at 12:59 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

You have no recourse at all. Period. End of sentence. Sorry, but you're not going to win this one. Dont. Even. Try. Seriously. If you take it back to them, they will confiscate them. What can you do? When in doubt, give it out. That is, literally, all you can do.
posted by brownrd at 1:13 PM on September 8, 2012

I would go straight to the Branch Manager. I would not explain that I have a counterfeit checking pen, I would say only that the bill looks weird.

My experience with BofA is that they don't care one damn bit about not losing customers, regardless of how many years you have banked there, how many accounts you may have (including your mortgage), or what your balances may be, so honestly with no experience with this particular issue I am 50/50 as to whether you will lose your $100. But even that would suck way way less than getting caught trying to pass a fake bill.
posted by vignettist at 1:19 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you don't maintain much of a balance, the bank may think you're trying to pass it but if you're a long-time customer with good accounts things may go your way. Whichever, returning it to the bank ASAP is the right thing to do, for a one time occurance. If it happens again, to the Secret Service.
posted by Rash at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2012

I would definitely not try to spend it elsewhere because you have a high risk of getting caught attempting to pay with counterfeit money. This isn't China where people would repeatedly attempt to pay for train tickets with different counterfeit bills ("try this one instead!") and the cashiers would check each one and reject them without batting an eye. Whenever I see people paying with $100 biils (I live in NYC for what it's worth) the cashiers always scrutinize them very closely and at some places they run the counterfeit checking pens over them. When I lived in Toronto even $20 bills got held up to the light sometimes. And as well, why pass this misfortune on to another innocent person?

I'd go to the bank and explain what happened. I can't imagine them having you arrested for fraud over one $100 bill. The chances of that are way lower than being arrested for attempting to spend it elsewhere.
posted by pravit at 1:39 PM on September 8, 2012

I think what the people saying "don't bother taking it to the bank" are missing is that you are already out the 100 dollars. Attempting to pass the bill off is pretty dicey / immoral, and you don't even have a safe harbor of ignorance.

Going by the amount of cameras pointed at me when I was working at a movie theater in high school, I'm assuming the banks have sufficient camera tech in place to identify your banknote. But you should handle this now rather than later, to keep branch employee memories warm, as well as the camera's tape rotation current.
posted by pwnguin at 1:55 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

This happened to me several years ago with a $50. I took it into the branch along with the atm receipt and walked out 5 min later with a replacement. Zero drama, just a quick exchange.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 2:11 PM on September 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm going to go against some of the grain and suggest that you return it, and also that you have a good chance of getting a replacement. Banks are not considered morally scrupulous by default and free from legal suspicion, and technically, they passed you bad money, which you could press legally (as could any place that you try to pass it off to). They have a vested interest in making this right.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:23 PM on September 8, 2012

For the love of Ogg, please don't try to spend it.

It will most likely be detected, and since this post is not anonymous, if the authorities did decide to pursue this, they would have evidence that you _knew_ the bill was fake.

I say take it to the bank. Whether or not you are out the $100 depends entirely on how badly they want to keep you as a customer (which probably depends on how good of a customer you are to them). Either way though, at least the bank can make the appropriate reports and maybe this extra piece of evidence can help to track down the counterfeiters.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:30 PM on September 8, 2012

As an aside, that secret service site has a very dubious .exe download called a "self-executable form". God knows what that is, but I wouldn't download it to my computer.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:36 PM on September 8, 2012

Just call the bank already. Don't be paranoid, you've done nothing wrong.
posted by roboton666 at 2:46 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I jut wanted to throw in the fact that the counterfeit-checking pens are not conclusive. If there happens to be starch on the bill from some source, you will get a false positive from the pen.

You should look at the other anti-counterfeiting features of the bill to determine if it is counterfeit.
posted by BrashTech at 2:57 PM on September 8, 2012

Don't try to spend it. If you're in a large city, call the local office of the Secret Service and ask them to send an agent to meet you at the bank. You want to be very clear to both the branch manager and the agent on the timeline of exactly what happened. Record the conversation if possible.
posted by thewalrus at 3:10 PM on September 8, 2012

Good Lord, don't spend it, unless you have a deep-seated desire for an extended up-close tour of our federal minimum-security detention facilities.

Take it to the bank. If you're telling us the truth, and additionally you're correct that the bill is counterfeit, then the bank has managed to screw you over and it's your moral duty to make them responsible for that. I will give you one sterling bit of advice that saved me once, when I had an account closed on me while I was out of town. I showed up at the bank in normal street clothes -- jeans and a shirt, probably a pattern shirt but possibly a tee -- and the teller basically said "Nope, your account stays closed." I went back the next day dressed in a business suit and asked to speak to a manager, and the account was reopened without any trouble other than a fee which I agreed to pay. Play the part of upstanding citizen to the hilt; cut your hair, shave, anything not to look marginal. I suspect this is one of those instances where such things matter.

The more time that passes between the point at which the bill touched your hands to the point where you speak to this manager, the worse your chances get. So, Monday AM. Take an hour off work if you have to.

Future advice, though, is that when you're standing at the ATM is the time that you're supposed to check through what you got. Some of the older lobby ATMs had phones, and that's when you're supposed to report a problem like this -- immediately.
posted by dhartung at 3:14 PM on September 8, 2012

This is a squeaky wheel problem. Banks generally will say that they have no responsibility for counterfeits once you leave the branch, and when it comes to an ATM, the liability is wholly on you to begin with. Of course, this entirely wrong -- when you withdraw money from the bank, the bank is paying off a debt it owes you and it is no more entitled to do so with a counterfeit bill than you to pass a counterfeit bill to buy a pizza or pair of jeans. People who win these kind of disputes are people whom the bank can't afford to upset, people who have enough pull or persistence to get the police involved on their side, and people who are willing to file a small claims suit and follow through on it.
posted by MattD at 4:00 PM on September 8, 2012

I've gotten counterfeit twenties twice, and I seriously had no problem getting them replaced within 15 minutes. My bank has a form you fill out, they take a photocopy of your ID, and you're done.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:11 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Was it from an ATM, or cash from a teller? The ATM case might actually give you better odds, because BoA would "refund" your bill, then try to pass the liability on to whoever has the contract for refilling their ATM machines.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:30 PM on September 8, 2012

All the people who actually have experience with this situation are saying they had no problem doing the exchange. I'd listen to them. You're out the money right now, and the only way to get it is by going to the bank. So just go.
posted by Danila at 6:51 PM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you do get stuck holding the bill and losing $100, get a receipt from whomever you turn it over to (presumably the Secret Service agent). FWIW, you can write it off your Federal taxes.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:28 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the bank will replace the bill. People who are really trying to spend counterfeit money don't come into the bank and report it just to make 100 bucks The bank will probably make some kind of note in the computer records. If you came in 1 or 2 more times claiming the same thing had happened then yeah you might have a problem. One time, no. Common sense actually prevails most of the time, even with banks.
posted by banishedimmortal at 1:51 AM on September 9, 2012

For the love of god, don't try to spend it.

I have never intentionally tried to spend counterfeit money, but I once fell for the "do you have change for a fifty" scam right before trying to exchange dollars for euro. It was a very, very unpleasant experience, and it very nearly didn't matter that I had been scammed. I most definitely did not get my fifty dollars back. I was very nearly arrested, and I think the only thing that saved me was an older woman who started yelling at the teller.

Another thing re the bank: if they don't give you your money back, you could always threaten to go to the newspapers and say that they're passing counterfeit bills and then are unwilling to make good.
posted by corb at 2:42 AM on September 9, 2012

Inform the bank - whether you get your $100 back or not you want them doing an audit on their cash so you don't get stuck with another fake $100 at the ATM.
posted by mikepop at 6:00 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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