Andrew Samuel wrote me the letter in response to my letter to Faye L. Chapman, executive legal counsel at Washington Mutual. In his letter, he invited me to call him if I had any questions.
Last week, I phoned his office. His secretary, however, informed me that he was on the phone with another customer. She asked for my phone number, but I really didn't want him calling me back on my cell phone while I'm grocery shopping or something, so I asked his email address. She gave it to me. I won't post it here, because that would seem malicious. But if you would like to email Mr. Samuel, please feel free to email me.
Here is the email I sent him. It has been over a week and I have not received a response.
I recently wrote Faye Chapman regarding an incident of fraud against my grandma's Washington Mutual checking account (Forgery Case #200602xxxxx.) You were kind enough to write my grandma in answer to my letter and invite her to contact you with any further questions. My grandma shared the letter with me and I tried to phone you today with some further questions we have. However, you were unavailable and, at my request, I was provided your email address. I'm writing on behalf of my grandma with some follow-up questions.
You note in the letter that you can only communicate regarding particulars of her account with her individually. None of my questions involve private details related to her account, so I hope you will find no obstacle to responding to these questions.
1. Washington Mutual paid funds out of my grandmother's checking account because a fraudulent telemarketing company ("the merchant") printed up a check with her account information on it. She never signed or saw the check. Although you state in your letter that she authorized the transaction, she did not authorize it according to the terms presented to her by the merchant in portions of the transaction not recorded, which disguised the fact that a demand draft would be drawn up and money taken from her account.
The company itself, I have learned, is being investigated by the state of Wisconsin and Canadian authorities. In my letter, I asked why Wamu would ever cash such a check? You wrote, "Washington Mutual Bank honored the items because they are negotiable instruments according to the Uniform Commercial Code 3104."
My question: is Wamu legally obligated to honor such items? In cases where the authorization is questionable and the instrument originates from a company with a public record of questionable practices, can a bank refuse to honor such an instrument?
2. I contacted Bank of America and asked one of their agents if they cash these kind of checks. He said that they do, but with certain known discreditable merchants, they immediately credit back the customer's account without any request even being necessary from the account holder. Another person whose mother-in-law was victimized in a scheme similar to the one that target my grandmother informed me that Wachovia, where his mother-in-law's account is held, immediately refunded the $498 taken from her account when they brought it to their attention.
In your letter, you write, "The Forgery Department is very familiar with the different telemarketing companies, and knows which ones provide a recording of the verbal authorization." Cursory research on my part revealed that the merchant in question in my grandma's case has a public history of senior fraud. See, for instance:
Given these facts, why wouldn't Washington Mutual question the validity of the authorization or follow a policy like Bank of America or Wachovia to protect your account holders?
3. You note in your letter that my grandma should be receiving two refunds for checks cashed against her account. She has not seen either of these refunds and when I have talked with the customer support company, Client Care Relations, I get a different answer every time.
Can you give me the name and phone number of the contact with whom you spoke at Client Care Relations so that I can obtain definitive information on the status of her refunds? My suspicion is that the puported refunds are merely a diversion to get my grandma and Washington Mutual to go away.
4. In your letter, you state that my grandmother authorized one of the fraudulent merchants to write a check against her account by answering "yes" when she was asked "is Orange City, CA where the account is held?" Is getting an account holder to verbally confirm the location of their local Wamu branch sufficient authorization for anyone to write a check against your customer's account?
5. On the advice of someone with whom I discussed this matter, my grandmother and I would like if possible to initiate an R-10 chargeback against each of the unauthorized demand drafts presented against my grandma's account. Can we do this? If so, how can we do so?
6. If a chargeback is not possible, I'd like to again request Washington Mutual reimburse my grandmother for the unauthorized demand drafts cashed against her account. In making this request, I acknowledge the reason why Washington Mutual refused her initial fraud claim. In making this second appeal, I ask you to reimburse her not because the payment Washington Mutual was unauthorized but as an act of good faith and positive customer relations consistent with the practices of Bank of America and Wachovia and, I hope, Washington Mutual itself.
Thank you again for your time and attention.