7 On Your Side fights check forgery that cost couple thousands

LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A couple is in the hole for almost $3,000 after someone managed to cash a check they mailed to American Express in July of 2017.

"I was worried," Mary Buchen said. "This is a lot of money for us."

It was a simple $2,800 check written by Mary and Bill Buchen, who design soundscapes in public spaces all over the globe to give people access to music and art in public parks.

"They showed me the check," Bill Buchen said. "The front looked exactly the same, but on the back, someone had endorsed it and cashed it.

There was no official stamp on the back, just a simple signature of a woman's name.

The check was cashed at a TD Bank two days after it was written out of their Citibank checking account and dropped in the mailbox right by the Lower East Side Community Garden the couple helped design.

After reporting the fraud to TD Bank, the Buchens got a letter back denying their refund request. They pointing to the payee, American Express, to file a forgery claim.

AMEX told the couple to contact their bank, which they did, and Citibank filed an affidavit. Citi then wrote back, saying TD had rejected it because, again, TD needed AMEX to file an affidavit.

But AMEX told the couple in writing, "It cannot file claims for personal payment checks."

"It was a catch 22 situation," Bill Buchen said. "We got three people trying to pass the buck. I blame all three.

Bill Buchen said they wasted countless hour trying to get their money back and even took it up a notch, writing their congresswoman, who implored all three three parties to resolve the problem. But nothing budged, so they reached out to 7 On Your Side.

We started knocking around, and within 24 hours -- a year and half after the check fraud -- they were finally reimbursed $2,819.07.
The Big Takeaway:

--If you are going to mail paper checks to fight theft, use a mailbox that has the new fraud prevention slot so someone can't fish your mail out, or go directly to the post office.

--Make sure you reconcile your bank statement within 30 days of receipt in order to detect any irregularities. Otherwise, you may become liable for any losses due to check fraud.

TD Bank said it came up with another way to resolve the matter, since American Express could not do an affidavit. And as soon as they got the documentation last month from Citibank, a check was sent for reimbursement to the customer.

Below is TD Bank's Full Statement

"At TD Bank, we take the issue of fraud very seriously. We investigate fraud complaints to determine the facts and take appropriate action. In this case, there was an issue with the original Affidavit of Forgery we received. As the letter from Citibank to their customer on June 18, 2018 stated, TD Bank could not honor the initial claim because the original affidavit that TD Bank received from Citibank needed to be completed by a representative of the payee listed, which in this case was American Express. TD Bank came up with another way to obtain the information needed to resolve the matter - we contacted Citibank requesting a different type of affidavit that did not require a signature from American Express. Once we received this affidavit in mid-December, we informed Citibank that we would honor the claim and we sent a check to Citibank for reimbursement to their customer. At TD Bank, we strive to achieve a positive resolution for customers when it is determined that fraud occurred, as we did in this case. Looking at the general issue of fraud, customers can be targets for increasingly sophisticated attempts to gain unauthorized access to their accounts and information. TD Bank utilizes industry best practices in an effort to safeguard customer accounts and the information of our customers, and we provide tools and information to help customers do the same."

Citibank released the following statement: "Our customers' satisfaction is always very important to us and we were pleased to help resolve the matter."


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