Bank Blames Customer for Identity Theft

Maili McHenry noticed the fraudulent charge days after her checkbook was stolen from a locked glovebox inside her unlocked vehicle

A Southern California woman who said her bank held her responsible for a fraudulent charge after her checkbook was stolen from her car is getting a refund after the bank took another look at her claim.

U.S. Bank conducted a second review of Maili McHenry's case at the request of the NBC4 I-Team and agreed to provide a nearly $500 refund. The Redondo Beach woman's fraud claim had earlier been denied due to what the bank said was negligence on her behalf.

"They don't dispute the fact that it's fraudulent," said McHenry. "They just told me I was negligent."

McHenry's first tip that something was wrong came after she noticed her car's hood was unlatched during a drive home from her sister's home. Days later, she checked her bank statements online and noticed a fraudulent check that cleared for $500 on her account.

She discovered the hood latch had been tripped when thieves entered her unlocked car at her sister's home. They took items from a locked glovebox, including the checkbook, and clothes from the trunk.

"I called my bank right away and they told me, 'Oh, this isn't going to be a problem. It's clearly not your signature,'" said McHenry.

Three months later, she learned that U.S. Bank — her bank of 10 years — denied her fraud claim. A letter from U.S. Bank to McHenry said, "Customer stated car was left unlocked ... This lack of ordinary care is negligence that contributed to the alteration/forgery of the item."

A consumer attorney told the I-Team a bank must prove negligence.

"Just having something stolen out of your car doesn't make you negligent," said attorney Stuart Talley. "They have to check the signature on the check before they cash it."

McHenry filed a police report, which led to charges against a man and woman in the case and a series of vehicle burglaries reported near her sister's home.

The I-Team contacted the bank about McHenry's claim and agreed to the refund, calling it "an exception to our standard policy."

"We take the protection of customer accounts very seriously, from the behind the scenes monitoring to the day-to-day reminders to customers that they are their own best protection from theft and fraud," the bank said in a statement. "We made an exception to our standard policy in this case as a courtesy to the client."

McHenry said she changed banks due to the policy.

"It's blaming the victim, exactly, because of a crime happening," McHenry said.

The law gives banks the right to charge a customer's account if there is negligence. Click here to learn about what constitutes negligence with regard to stolen checks.

Contact Us