Washington Mutual - credit card fraud from within?
February 17, 2008 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Debit card fraud: despite being told several times by Washington Mutual that they've canceled a debit card that has been compromised, the card is still being used by someone in Florida. What to do?

A few months ago, my wife left her debit card in the machine at the local WaMu. She called the next day, after she realized the card was missing, and asked about the card. They said they were holding it for her, and she said she would be down in two days to pick it up. They said they would continue to hold it.

Two days later, she goes to the WaMu to pick up her card. They didn’t have it – they said that according to their log, it had been destroyed. While she was there, they went through the process of replacing the card for her and told her that her old card would be canceled. The new card arrived a few days later, and everything seemed fine.

Until last week. She got a call from WaMu telling her that there were some suspicious charges placed on her card in Florida – we live in NY, and did not make the charges in question. The WaMu person who called said that they would cancel the charges and cancel the card. They didn’t have any explanation why it hadn’t been canceled already, when the local branch personnel had said it was. So, we assumed that all was well, and that the card would be canceled.

Today, we arrived home from a weeklong trip to Boston and started to go through our mail and found a notification from WaMu. Not only did they not cancel the card like they said they would, but enough charges had gone through that her account now had a negative balance. Over $1000 in charges at various car parts dealers and Wal Marts, again in Florida.

Tomorrow, we’re going to call and get this all sorted out, hopefully. What recourse do we have against WaMu? What's the best way to get this sorted out? How can we effectively complain to them, and get the most "compensation"?
posted by skwm to Work & Money (14 answers total)
These charges may have been made before the card was canceled. I have often seen charges I make show up several days after I make them.
posted by slavlin at 5:52 PM on February 17, 2008

I wouldn't call. Write out a timeline including all pertinent information you can remember, including dates, the names of people you dealt with and the branch where they worked, and go into your local branch in person first thing in the morning and have them deal with it. Get as much as you can in writing.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:08 PM on February 17, 2008

A few years ago, while in Las Vegas on vacation, my credit card was stolen by our waitress. I realized the theft the following day, and called my back to notify them. They told me that $500 worth of purchases had been placed on the card in the previous several hours and immediately cancelled the card. They told me they would send a new one with a new account number and it would be waiting for me when I returned home after vacation. I filed a police report in Clark County, told them the waitresses name, and the officer said he would work with the bank to sort it out, make an arrest if possible, etc. We arrived home and the new card showed up. I called the bank and the police department, to find out the status on the fraud and was told by both that I did not have a vested interest in the ongoing investigation, since I was no longer the "victim". The bank has relieved me of all responsibility and had "eaten" the charges and was attempting restitution themselves. So at that point the bank had become the "victim" and would be responsible for making sure justice was served.
I think you may find similar circumstances when you go to your WaMu.
posted by Acacia at 6:16 PM on February 17, 2008

Aren't the banks closed tomorrow?
posted by konolia at 6:32 PM on February 17, 2008

Regardless of anything else, I'd close the bank account and open a new one.
posted by winston at 6:34 PM on February 17, 2008

I agree with winston. If the WaMu won't do it for you, close your account and take your business elsewhere.
posted by Doohickie at 7:14 PM on February 17, 2008

A friend of mine had her purse stolen (including her WaMu checkbook), called the bank within the hour, had them cancel all her checks, and is now, four years later, still trying to get back thousands of her dollars that the bank paid on checks that she never wrote and which do not bear anything resembling her signature. Unfortunately, she believed the assurances by the bank that she would not be held liable for fraudulent activity and did not close the account. Do not make this mistake.
posted by kindall at 7:52 PM on February 17, 2008

After going through a potential identity theft issue last year (my checking account number & debit card information were compromised via a security breach at a company who had this information via legitimate means), I learned a couple of important things:

1) Get everything in writing at a branch office. I called my bank to cancel my debit card and initiate transfer of my checking account funds to a different account. The person on the phone said he had taken care of everything but the new debit card never arrived and my checking account money was never transferred. I visited a branch office and asked what was up, and the person I talked to said there was no record of my phone conversation in their database. So I canceled the debit card and moved my money to a different account in person and it stuck that time. Plus I had the record of my transaction in case there were any need to prove it later.

2) If your checking account or debit card info are compromised, open a new checking account and transfer your old checking account money into it. It's a pain in the butt if you have any direct debits to your checking account. (Incidentally it's a better idea to set up any auto bill pays to hit a credit card and then pay that off from your checking account each month.) You've already discovered the reason for doing this. If there's any mixup about the status of your old checking/debit account, the thieves already have the money and you are fighting to get it back. It's much easier to dispute a credit charge or a debit to a non-active checking account than it is to get money back that was stolen from an active account.

So, to fix your current situation I recommend that you take all written documentation that you have to your closest branch office on Tuesday. If they do not resolve things to your satisfaction, though, please find a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with credit theft and move all of your money to a checking account at a different bank immediately. If the actual thief is not caught or if they can't repay your money, you will be fighting to get your money back from your bank. You'll be in the best position to do that if you have no remaining interests in that bank.
posted by rhiannon at 12:52 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing the move to a different bank entirely (do you have access to a credit union?). We had a debit card number stolen when we were with Bank of America, and when we tried moving the funds from the linked account to an entirely new account, they linked the old one to the new one, so the thief still had access to our money.

Also, check out the Consumerist's Ultimate Guide to Fighting Back. They give great information on escalation, especially when the EECB (executive email carpet bomb) needs to be deployed. From what I hear, you may have a fight on your hands. Good luck!
posted by tigerjade at 4:48 AM on February 18, 2008

File a police report as well for further documentation.
posted by TedW at 5:21 AM on February 18, 2008

Definitely file a police report.

Something similar happened to my fiancé - he left his debit card in a restaurant and the waiter went on a spree at the mall across the street. He reported it stolen, disputed all the charges, and got all his money back (though it did take awhile, about 2 weeks).
posted by desjardins at 6:28 AM on February 18, 2008

I'm having this problem with a credit card. It was compromised by being 'skimmed' in Las Vegas. The credit card company closed the account and opened a new account for me and sent me a new card. I thought I was protected from the fraudulent charges, but no. Any charges that come in on the old number, are automatically transferred to the new account number because they link the two accounts together. This results in me having to dispute every fraudulent charge as it comes in AGAIN. I understand this is standard practice for them. I tried to reason with them. What's the use of canceling the account that is compromised if you're just going to post those charges to my new account anyway? BTW...this is Discover.
posted by LightMayo at 6:49 AM on February 18, 2008

The story here demonstrates why debit cards can be dangerous.

Washington Mutual doesn't do it unless you ask, but they WILL issue you an ATM-only card. And an interesting feature of their (and perhaps many) ATMs is, if the you don't retrieve your ATM card from the machine at the conclusion of your transaction, the machine sucks it back inside after a minute, as a security feature. I've forgotten mine two or three times and rather than returning my old card, a new card (with new PIN) are automatically mailed to me.
posted by Rash at 9:25 PM on February 18, 2008

There's a rash of card theft going around NYC right now, just like this--someone gets ahold of your card number and charges hundreds of dollars at Walmarts and gas stations in Florida. It's happened to three people I know personally (2 at WaMu, 1 at USAA) and I've read on some NYC blogs that there are hundreds of cases right now. In all the cases I know, the people still had their cards and hadn't been in FL, but new ones had been made with their info. One theory is that there was a break in some central data system and thousands of numbers were stolen; another is that it's happening at a particular store(s) in NYC.

Check Gowanus Lounge (link to most recent relevant post) for more info. They're the main blog I know of that's covering it.

You should file a police report.
posted by min at 6:08 PM on February 19, 2008

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