Problem Solver: Missing tax refund check is fraudulently cashed, investigation ensues

For years, Harriet Hausman deposited checks into her bank account by mail.

With each deposit, the 89-year-old River Forest resident included a bank slip and endorsed the check with her signature and the words "for deposit only."

The process had never presented a problem — until she sent in her Illinois tax return check in November.

Hausman said she filled out the deposit slip, endorsed the $4,643.75 check, and sent it to Bank of America in the Loop.

With past deposits, she always received a letter within a week confirming the transaction, but not this time.

The following week, she called the bank to ask about the deposit. She was told the check had not yet arrived but to check back later, she said.

So it went for weeks.

"I had called them several times, I talked to several different people," Hausman said. "Everyone I spoke to said we'll look into it. They're very agreeable and courteous, and nothing happens."

Hausman said representatives at Bank of America told her repeatedly they could find no evidence of the $4,643.75 check, so she contacted the state treasurer's office.

A representative there told her the check had been cashed in late November and sent her a copy of the canceled check.

The back clearly shows Hausman's signature and the words "for deposit only." Beneath that someone placed a large "X" and a line, then scribbled another, seemingly indecipherable signature. The check was stamped by a bank, but the stamp was too light for Hausman to make out.

Upset, she called Bank of America again, figuring someone had intercepted the check in the mail and cashed it against her wishes.

Again she was told there was nothing the bank could do, she said.

Desperate to find her missing check, Hausman contacted a reporter at the Tribune who forwarded her to the Problem Solver.

Hausman said she's been a Bank of America customer for 30 years and never had any problems. She said she had never been told that sending her deposits by mail was unsafe.

"I am so frustrated," she said. "It's just awful."

The Problem Solver called Bank of America spokeswoman Diane Wagner, who looked into Hausman's case.

After several days of research, Wagner said the bank could find no record of the check.

The Problem Solver then called Bradley Hahn, a spokesman for state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and asked if the state agency had any record of the check being cashed.

Hahn said the check had, in fact, been cashed in late November — at a Chase bank. His office then contacted the fraud division at the state treasurer's office.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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