Man has $14,000 taken out of account due to error

December 30, 2011 7:00:00 PM PST
Have you ever written a check, but put in the wrong amount? One Bay Area man did just that and it nearly wiped out his bank account. Seven On Your Side then stepped in to help.

If you rarely check your bank statements, this story will inspire you to start doing just that. This man found out most of the money was drained from his checking account because of a single, small mistake and he had to jump through a lot of hoops and come to us to get it back.

Lyle Shiffer called his bank one day looking for a missing check. Instead, he found something else missing -- $14,000.

"I heard my balance I said, 'Oh something's wrong. It felt like I've been robbed," said Shiffer.

Shiffer contacted Bank Of The West saying his balance should be much higher and asking where all his money went.

"They said, 'Well, you have a $16,000 check that just came through here.' I said, 'I don't have a $16,000 check,'" said Shiffer.

His statement showed he paid American Express $16,000 on his credit card account. Shiffer said no way, he wrote a check for $1,600, not $16,000.

"This lady was very sympathetic, she said, 'Oh, that's terrible, it's awful.' So she's asking me a lot of questions and stuff and then I ask her, 'How long it will take to get this money back?' 'Well, I don't know,'" said Shiffer.

Shiffer called American Express which agreed it had too much of Shiffer's money. However, no one could say when he'd get the money back.

"I don't want to wait until you guys feel like giving it back to me, you took it without me authorizing it and now I want it back," said Shiffer.

Shiffer got a copy of his check and realized he was partly to blame. He added an extra zero in the box, making it look like $16,000. However, he did write out the amount correctly in words on the check for $1,600.

"I don't know how come I did that," said Shiffer.

Shiffer had to file a written claim with his bank. He also contacted Seven On Your Side and we found out what the law says. If the numbers on a check amount don't match the words, the uniform commercial code says the words prevail.

American Express tells us indeed there was an error in processing the check. The bank uses an electronic system which reads the digits in the box. So American Express did refund the overpaid amount -- $14,400.

It said: "We have checks and balances that are in place to detect errors, but in the rare case it is not detected and a mistake is made, we do whatever we can to right the wrong as quickly as possible."

Now that the money's back, Shiffer says he can laugh about the whole episode.

"Now, I have something to talk about when I see people, my friends now. 'Hey, guess what happened to me?'" said Shiffer.

Federal law says banks must refund your money within 10 business days after you alert them to a mistake in your account. However, you must notify the bank within 60 days of getting your statement. If you miss that deadline, they do not have to give you your money back. So do read those statements.

Load Comments