2 January 2006
Regular readers will recall my occasional differences with my health-insurance provider, identified as "CFI Care," usually with a disclaimer: "Not its real initials." Although it may be cute, it's just a substitute, and I've often wondered if maybe I'm doing a disservice to the general public by not revealing its real initials, even as I insulate myself from the slings and arrows of outrageous corporate lawyers.
Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times has run into a similar situation. Someone swiped his debit card; his bank decided that the $2000 or so that was siphoned out of his account constituted legitimate withdrawals and will not compensate him. Here's what he said:
The reason I'm not divulging my bank's name as much as I would love to is that it wouldn't be right for me to use the influence of the newspaper to get my money back. The average Joe can't do that. And besides, I want to see if in the end, my bank (a large national operation that will no longer have my business when this is over) does the right thing for the right reasons.
I have a slightly better soapbox than Joe does, and I'm usually reticent about spilling the beans unless I am really, really ticked off. (The loss of two grand would qualify as at least two, maybe three reallys.)
The Consumerist, where I found this, is wrestling with the same question. Suggestions from the field will be welcomed.
Posted at 2:02 PM to Common Cents
Same thing happened to me. I'm pretty sure I know who did it, but the bank and the police were of no assistance. I ended up covering the entire amount (almost $1500).
Since large corporations seem increasingly unresponsive to legitimate customer concerns and complaints, most have little recourse. We are left with one last weapon: word-of-mouth. My only caveat is what would the legal liability be. That's the only thing that would slow me down; but if I'm mad enough, I probably will throw caution to the wind and just say it. If no one else ever knows about it, nothing will change.
Truth is generally a good defense against a charge of libel; however, there's the question of whether I want to risk pretty much everything I own mounting that defense. (Almost anyone has deeper pockets than I do.)
I am not reticent to name names, but perhaps I should be.
Since we are not the insurance company's actual clients, I doubt WOM will help much though.
Mr. Lopez might want to consider the possibility that naming the name might not only bring the bank around to doing the right thing, but -- if he does it right -- also empower a bunch of average Joes who may be dealing with the same thing already. And if it makes the bank change a bad policy, he'd be helping to save future average Joes from the same trouble.
I think he's using an overly narrow definition of "for the right reasons." There is no heaven on earth, and sometimes the better angels of our fellow man's nature, are best reached by a smart prodding with a diabolical pitchfork.
He would have been better off if the perp had done his deed elsewhere across the Country somewhere so that it could be shown he couldn't possibly have done the transaction himself. Still this is kind of scary though!
Unless a debit card differs from a checking account in some uber-legal way, federal law requires that banks reimburse people for fraudulently withdrawn funds. There is no such thing as a "legitimate withdrawal" done by anyone other than the accountholder. Speak to the legal department of the bank, soon and assertively.