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6/26/2013 6:00:00 AM
His money was returned, but Kingmanite's check mystery still unsolved
Elmer Kroeger holds up one of  the checks written to Barnes and Noble by a Bank of America account holder in Sarasota. Four checks written on the same day were deducted from his account. Kroeger has been pushing Bank of America for five months to get them removed.KIM STEELE/Miner
Elmer Kroeger holds up one of the checks written to Barnes and Noble by a Bank of America account holder in Sarasota. Four checks written on the same day were deducted from his account. Kroeger has been pushing Bank of America for five months to get them removed.

Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

UPDATE:When contacted about the situation by the newspaper, Stephanie Grisham, press secretary for the Arizona Attorney General's office in Phoenix, called it "very troubling" and said she hasn't heard of anything similar. Grisham said the information had been forwarded to the office's senior task force for additional investigation.

KINGMAN - A Kingman man who got his money back after five months of fighting with Bank of America still has questions about where it went.

Elmer Kroeger, 90, had been a customer for about five years at the bank when he noticed in December that checks written on a Bank of America account in Sarasota, Fla., were being deducted from his account at the Kingman branch.

After meeting with personal banker Jonathan Clay at least six times since December and seeing the money credited to and removed from his account twice, Kroeger was told in April that he would have to pay for the checks, which total $1,610.37, and that the dispute was over.

But it wasn't for Kroeger.

"I don't see anything businesslike about this procedure," said Kroeger, who lives in Kingman. "(The bank) thinks I'm a senile old man who will give up. Granted, I may be an old man, but I'm not senile yet and I'm not going to go away."

The dispute centers on four successively numbered checks written Dec. 23 and embossed with the name, telephone number and address of a man in Sarasota. He did not return messages left at the telephone number listed on the checks. A search of computer address location sites could not find his address, nor could anyone by that name be located in Florida.

Two of the checks, for $425.86 and $575.66, had been written to Barnes and Noble. The other two checks, for $233.29 and $46.73, were made out to Sweetbay. All the checks have a box covering the first part of the account number, but the last four digits are the same as Kroeger's account number. There is no address for the bank on the checks, which according to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) alert bulletin indicates a fake check.

Clay and his manager, Sandra Jackson-Long, refused comment and referred questions to Colleen Haggerty, media relations specialist for Bank of America in Laguna Beach, Calif. Haggerty, who refused to comment at first, said that given the volume of checks processed by the company's banking centers daily, it is not able to review each check for accuracy. Haggerty said it's imperative for customers to study their statements regularly to quickly identify and report any suspicious activity.

Other bank experts contacted for this story agreed similar situations with checks drawn on other accounts happen frequently and advised consumers to monitor their bank statements.

"We are very sorry for the frustration this experience has caused Mr. Kroeger," wrote Haggerty in an email after the situation was brought to her attention. "We have multiple channels to review fraud claims. The initial claim was rejected because it was reported to the bank past the 60-day reporting window as outlined in our policies. Following that initial decline, we undertook a second review during which additional factors were considered. As a result of this second review process, we decided in favor of his claim. We notified him of this decision today and are restoring the impacted funds."

But Kroeger disagreed about Haggerty's timeline, noting he visited the bank in late December after he discovered the deductions and met with Clay to have the situation resolved. Kroeger said he thought the meeting would take care of the problem, and was pleased to see the money was temporarily credited back to his account in late December and early January.

In February, the credits were reversed and Kroeger was charged for the four checks. Kroeger said he returned to the bank, again meeting with Clay, who spent about 30 minutes on the computer and telephone and told him the situation would be resolved. Kroeger's account was credited for the four checks on March 11. He also filed a written request to stop payment on the checks and investigate the withdrawals.

On April 9, Kroeger received a letter from Bank of America stating it had researched the dispute, contacted the two merchants who had received the checks and based on their responses, concluded that no error occurred. The letter stated the last credits to Kroeger's account for the four checks would be reversed. Now, the money has been credited to his account again.

But questions still remain about how checks written on an account from Florida could be deducted from Kroeger's account and why no one at the Kingman branch corrected it.

Paul Hickman, chief executive of the Arizona Bankers Association in Phoenix, reviewed the information and was so concerned he contacted Benito Almanza, president of marketing for the Bank of America in Arizona.

The Arizona Bankers Association has been the voice of Arizona's banking industry for more than 100 years. It has a membership of 70 banks and credit card operations, including Bank of America.

"This is an aberrational situation and I've never heard about anything happening like this before," said Hickman. "I think it's something that warrants further investigation. There's something going on here - more than meets the eye. This is not a gray area where a mistake could easily be made. The checks are from another account. It's black and white."

Kroeger agreed.

"I'm not stupid," he said, noting he ran a construction business and was certified in business law before he retired 25 years ago. "Most banks don't want something like this to happen. And 99 percent of the customers out there wouldn't know what to do and would just let it go. They picked the wrong person when they chose my account."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Article comment by: V Stokes

@Wearenot Stupid

Thats not what I said. I said I had my money back in about 24 hrs. There were a few phone conversations with 2 different departments of the bank. Customer Service and Fraud Prevention (or similar names) and then a letter stating after they had completed the investigation and considered the matter closed. They never said it was my fault...and neither was it theirs...from the first conversation they knew my number had been stolen.

Is it that hard to understand? Thats why I use a card and have my checks locked up unless I have to use them. When a card is used at a POS location in one place...and another 3000 miles away on the same day...they can figure it out pretty easily.

I've had more issues with small banks or Mom and Pop stores than I have ever had with BoA...where I've had accounts for almost 35 yrs.

Sorry you misunderstood.

Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013
Article comment by: Wearenot Stupid

V Stokes. Did you even hear what you just said? It took a few phone calls and a letter AND 3 weeks before B of A admitted they were wrong.

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013
Article comment by: mike Johnson

I've never received anything but good service at the Kingman VA Clinic.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: V Stokes

I've had nothing but good service from BoA. Last year I got a call from their automated alert system and it turned out someone had stolen our card number. Since the purchase was in Spain where I've never been, I had the money back in my account in 24 hrs. After a few phone calls and a letter, it was completely resolved in about 3 weeks. I get similar alerts every once in a while when my wife travels out of the area and makes a larger purchase. This is one reason I use my card as much as possible. Far easier to get rapid resolution then a check fraud, believe it or not. More protections as well.

I am sorry for this gentlemans problems...but in my experience, it isn't the norm.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Article comment by: M B

They don't have time to check every check individually. Yeah right. My husband deposited a check and it had the name Rick on it and they sent it back and they said that there was no Rick on the account. His name is listed as Richard. Like really guys. Anything to charge those extra fees.

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Article comment by: gun owner 000

You can't trust anybody, these days. Last month, I got an overdue payment warning from Chevron. They said I had an unpaid balance of $500 on my gas credit card. Wait a minute. I don't use anywhere near $500 worth of gasoline in a month, what's going on? I called them, and the lady I spoke with pulled up my statement. Yes, there it was...two charges for $250 each, fifteen minutes apart.. At a gas station in Lynwood, California, three weeks ago.
No way, I told her. First, I haven't been anywhere near Lynwood since Feburary, second, even if gas was $5 a gallon, I could never get $250 worth of gasoline into my car, it don't hold that much (besides, it was diesel fuel. My car has a gas engine) They promised they would investigate. I got a letter from them last week stating that they found the miscreant, and it wasn't only my card. This clown had charged over $150,000 to other people's cards, also.

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Article comment by: Kingman Resident

I would recommend that you close your account(s) and do business with another bank.

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Article comment by: Trained Observer

Good for you Elmer! Bank of America has a horrible reputation for customer service when they are wrong. I have had it happen to me more than once with them and for reasons other than fraudulent checks.

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Article comment by: s c

Good for you, Elmer!! Don't let them get the best of you!! Stay on top of it!!

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