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Largo woman caught in squabble between two giant banks finally gets her money back

Indeed, no good deed goes unpunished, the old adage says.

And so goes the tale of the past eight months in the life of Riekie Alles. The 80-year-old Largo resident simply wanted to contribute to the Tracy Alison Fleisher Memorial Fund, a nonprofit that helps children living with serious medical conditions.

She wrote a check for $25 from her Bank of America. account in December, as she does almost every year. But this time, thieves pilfered the check before it reached the nonprofit, rewrote it for $10,100 and successfully cashed it.

Alles filed a fraud complaint with Bank of America. Then the finger-pointing began, she said. And Alles was dumbfounded.

In addition to the $10,100 taken from her account — part of which she was about to use to pay a large annual insurance bill — Bank of America froze her account, which still had $4,000 in it.

From February through this month, Alles was out more than $14,000 while two banks squabbled over who was responsible and whether she would ever see her money.

"It's a huge amount of money," Alles said. "They didn't do anything but send form letters back and forth. I was told these things take 60 to 90 days."

But 90 days passed. Then 180.

Bank of America blamed the cashing bank, Capital One, Alles said. Then, she said, Bank of America told her that Capital One claimed the check was legitimate and wasn't going to do anything about it.

Alles called the St. Petersburg Times. A day after the Times called Bank of America, Alles finally got a resolution.

"We have completed our research in this matter and concluded the customer should be made whole in this case," Christina Beyer Toth, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said in a statement responding to the Times' inquiry. "This will happen today (Tuesday)."

Because of confidentiality rules, Bank of America would not discuss specifics of Alles' case with the Times.

Bank of America called Alles on Tuesday afternoon to tell her that her funds were available.

"I couldn't believe it," Alles told the Times. "You mean it's over? Woohoo!"

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ Consumers_Edge and find the Consumer's Edge on Facebook.

>>FAST FACTS

How to fight fraud

The American Bankers Association says that if a customer is a victim of check fraud, the bank is responsible, but there also are cases in which a customer or a business can be held at fault.

>> Check your monthly statements. Banks generally require that check fraud claims be filed within 60 days of the incident.

>> Be careful to ensure that the checks you deposit are legitimate. Consumers and businesses are responsible for checks they deposit, including fake ones.

>> Wait for a check to clear before withdrawing money on the deposit if you suspect there might be a problem with the check. Cashier's checks and money orders also can be fake, and it can take weeks before a fake check is discovered.

Sources: American Bankers Association and Bank of America.

Largo woman caught in squabble between two giant banks finally gets her money back 08/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 10:22am]
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