Letter: Your checks are washed? Here’s what happens next

by Betsy Teutsch
Posted 7/20/22

True confessions, we were a few days late paying our June estimated quarterly taxes

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Letter: Your checks are washed? Here’s what happens next


True confessions, we were a few days late paying our June estimated quarterly taxes. I think I put them in a neighborhood mailbox, and you - dear Local Reader - can probably guess what happened next. 

Looking online at our Ally Bank account is a long-standing daily habit of mine. We haven’t received canceled checks for years, but we can click to see the images. That’s when I discovered the two payees were erased and replaced with “Damir Wall,” who proceeded to deposit one check of $1,030 and a second for $930. Obviously, no human looks at these deposits, since they were clearly designated as tax payments.

Of course, federal and state government officials don’t inform you they haven’t received your payment, since they don’t know you mailed them. Had I not been monitoring my account every day, we wouldn’t have realized this criminal activity for a long time.

Ally instantly blocked our checking account, and provided a new account number during our phone call. Then, all the real work began.

The tasks were threefold: updating all our direct-pay accounts, updating all our direct-deposit accounts, and reporting the incident to police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. This all has entailed hours and hours of work online as well as in person.

My visit to the local police station was perfunctory. The intake officer cheerfully told me around three people typically report this type of theft every day. (Something is very wrong!) He provided me with a case number. This is then shared with both the Postal Inspection people and the bank.

Updating all our auto-pay accounts meant going through our bank statement and realizing the shockingly large number of companies with whom we have set these automated payment systems in place. Naturally, each one has its own protocol for updating this information, requiring all the typical log-ins, passwords, 2nd party verification texts, and rigamarole. There isn’t any uniformity in what websites even call these auto-payments. Some were in my name, others in my husband’s. And of course, we missed a few that were not on our most recent bank statement. This took hours every day, for several days.

The most challenging direct in-flow updating was Social Security. Their website was easy to access and navigate, but the confirmation message confirmed our change of bank account, beginning in September. We are talking ocean liner here. The system apparently cannot just change your bank account on the spot! What about July and August payments?

A call to Ally, which was short-staffed meaning typical hold times of 30-60 minutes, assured us our old account is open for money coming in. The block is for money coming out. Phew! The July payment arrived on schedule, much to our relief.

Uh, so when do we get our money back in our account? Another call to Ally to figure this out yielded new information: we needed to submit a notarized affidavit which they will send to their insurance company. Yes, a trip to the notary. Fortunately, there is one at Weavers Way right near us. The notary, Kirsten Bernal, commiserated with our plight, having dealt with quite a few members with this same problem. Her theory is that banks make so much money they are willing to eat this theft, and pass it along to their insurance. The fact that it consumes hours and hours of their customers’ time is not part of the calculus.

There are a few take-aways from this experience:

  • Switch to direct electronic payment, coming straight out of the checking account. That is how we repaid our estimated taxes. We couldn’t imagine putting checks in the mailbox, right? 
  • Visit your bank account frequently online, and click to bring up images of the checks you’ve written to make sure the correct recipient is still in the payee line.
  • Freeze your credit reports. (Ours were already frozen, thankfully.)

As I said to sympathetic friends, we don’t live in Kyiv, and we’re not trying to claim asylum at the southern border. We are in a position to wait for the money to be returned without it wreaking havoc for our household. For us, this was a huge hassle. For others, without the time, resources, or tools to deal with all these tasks, it can be completely destabilizing. 

Why are these forgers getting away with this?