Monday, July 26, 2010

Bank of America Automatic Bill Pay System Flaw Double Debits Checking Account

A week ago, I attempted to pay my regular monthly bills in advance using the automatic bill pay system provided by my bank, Bank of America, which allows me to schedule payments via their website and provides a convenient way to avoid writing separate checks and placing them in the mail.  Anticipating my regular monthly disability deposit and considering that I would be hospitalized due to vocal cord surgery for the following two days, I used the system to schedule automatic bill payments in advance, knowing that there were insufficient funds at the time.

When I was completed entering all my payments for the pay schedule, I clicked on the “submit” button only to receive an error message indicating that the system could not process the requests and to try again later.  I assumed that the system was down for maintenance.  So I tried again later in the day only to encounter the same error message.  Okay, perhaps, I thought, it wasn’t permitting me to schedule payments in advance because there were insufficient funds in my account.  So I elected to defer the attempt until after the deposit was made and after I was discharged from the hospital, hopefully a day later.

Fortunately, the hospitalization was just an overnight stay.  I was released the next afternoon after a 24-hour observation period.  When I came home, I made another attempt to schedule bill payments using the same system, this time, I had success.  The system accepted my request and I was able to get a confirmation printout of the scheduled payments.  It did not allow me to do this on Monday.  Little did I realize that payments were actually queued in the system in the background without my knowledge for the day that it claimed was having problems processing my request.

When I checked the balance of one of the credit cards, I noted that there were two payments posted on July 22nd, and July 23rd consecutively.  I only authorized payment for July 23rd.

When I examined the checking account via the website, I discovered that the system made two payments for ten items totaling over $1,286.16.  The ten items were paid twice resulting in an overpayment of about $643.  These transactions practically cleaned out my checking account.  One set of payments were automatically made on July 22nd without my authorization or knowledge.  Then a second set of payments to the same companies were made the following scheduled day, July 23rd, as expected.

When I called customer support to get my money back, they were absolutely helpless.  They claimed there was nothing that they could do because the funds were already disbursed electronically.  How ironic, they could take your funds out within minutes, but in order to get your money back, it takes days, even weeks while these companies collect a profit off your money!

To add insult to injury, they said that I would have to contact each payee individually myself because of privacy protection laws.  I think this is pure laziness and poor customer service.  After all, it’s their programming blunder that caused this error in the first place.  Can’t they take responsibility for their own problems?  Where’s the accountability?  In my opinion, this is just nothing more than irresponsible employees trying to hide behind the “big white elephant.”

Corporations, especially banks, need to protect their customers’ accounts better.  Obviously, no one was monitoring these transactions.  Sure, they all blame it on the computer for causing these problems.  I blame it on humans for faulty programming and not managing the computers to begin with.  Pointing the fingers at computers is just a cloaking mechanism to hide poor quality of personnel and management.  If they are so quick to point fingers at computers for their errors and blunders, then customers should be concerned and have cause to quickly move their accounts elsewhere.

Consumers beware, check your bank accounts daily.  Your bank’s computer system could be debiting your accounts more than once.  Sad part about it, your bank wouldn’t even care to help get your money back.

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