PG&E rebate check ends up in the wrong hands

December 8, 2010 7:28:55 PM PST
You've heard the old cliché -- the check is in the mail. That's what PG&E told a consumer who was expecting a rebate check in the mail, but he never received the money.

In this case, the check really was in the mail, but a thief got hold of it first. However, a little detective work by 7 On Your Side tracked down the missing money.

When Sunny Lo and his family replaced their old washing machine with an energy efficient washer, PG&E granted them a $175 rebate for saving gas and water. The only problem was that he never received the rebate check.

"I contacted PG&E and they told me they already sent the check and the check has been cashed," he said.

Lo told PG&E he never even saw the check, let alone cashed it. PG&E sent him this copy of the canceled check. On the back, Lo saw a signature and it wasn't his.

"I knew somebody must have stolen my check and cashed it out," he said.

Lo figured some thief had his money and PG&E wouldn't issue him another check. When he reported it to the police, his case was left hanging.

"I didn't know where to go, so that's why I contacted 7 On Your Side," he said.

7 On Your Side investigated and found the U.S. Postal Service had reports of several recent thefts from mailboxes in the San Jose area where Lo lives. Officials told us, his check apparently had been swiped from his mailbox sitting on the road.

So how did someone cash it? On the back of the check, we found it had been cashed at a Cardtronics automated teller machine inside a convenience store. Customers can use them without having a bank account.

We contacted Cardtronics and explained someone had cashed Lo's check at its ATM and right away Cardtronics agreed to reimburse his $175.

"I did get my money back, so that is very good," Lo said.

Cardtronics did not say how the thief got away with this, and said it has a contract with another company, Certegy to detect any fraud. Certegy agents speak with ATM customers by phone in the kiosk to identify the identity and it even snaps a photo.

Cardtronics, "We are confident that Certegy is diligent in updating their process to minimize fraudulent or forged checks."

Certegy said, "It follows a strict authorization process requiring multiple identifiers. We also reimburse our customers for fraudulent check activity."

Lo was just glad to get his rebate, even if it took a little more energy to get it.

"I really appreciate the whole 7 On Your Side team. It's a happy ending," he said.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office tells us it now is prosecuting two suspects on charges of stealing checks and cashing them at Cardtronics machines and there is a hearing scheduled for Dec. 22. Officials say if you are expecting something valuable in the mail, make sure your box is secure or use a P.O. Box instead.


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