Automatic payments drain deceased's acct.

January 13, 2009 5:44:36 PM PST
If a family member dies, how do you close up their affairs? Sometimes they have ongoing contracts that can be hard to cancel.

Lots of people use automatic withdrawals to pay for services. But when someone dies, those automatic payments don't automatically stop. One Bay Area family found hundreds of dollars was being drained from a loved one's account.

When Dolores Restivo died last June, her daughter Koan closed her affairs, including canceling her home alarm service -- or at least she thought she canceled it.

"The police department's on its way. I said but the security system's supposed to be turned off, I don't get it," said Joan Benedetti.

The alarm was not turned off. It rang out in her when a realtor was showing the house.

Not only that, Joan noticed the alarm company, ADT was still taking automatic payments from her mother's bank account months after Mrs. Restivo had died. Joan says she called ADT again -- and again to stop the alarm service.

"They kept billing. They kept taking money out of my mom and dad's account," said Benedetti.

Finally, Joan got a letter from ADT in October, saying the company was sorry about her mother's death, but was Joan interested in keeping the alarm system.

The letter also said: "If you reconsider, to elect to keep ADT, they'd be happy to continue service."

"My mom is dead my mom passed away so I don't understand that," said Benedetti. "That's why we contacted you."

ADT told 7 On Your Side de-activating an alarm is not done lightly. The company must first verify that the request actually came from the customer and not a burglar.

In case of death, the heirs must be able to provide the customer's pass code or a death certificate. It apologized for the delay in this case, and refunded $356 taken from the mother's bank account.

"After calling Michael Finney 7 On Your Side, within that week we got a call from ADT," said Benedetti. "We physically went to mom and dad's bank in Belmont and it was there."

If you have an elderly family member it's good to know about any automatic payments they are making. If they have an alarm system, ADT says somebody in the family should know the pass code. it will make it easier to cancel in case of death.