THE BLOG
05/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The $6200 Insult: How Chase Manhattan Convinced Me to Finally Move My Money

In 1965, I was a young, newly married, enthusiastic public school teacher working with poor kids in the Bronx. I opened up an account with my local bank, Chase Manhattan. Over the years as my bank grew bigger, I like most people stayed comfortably with the bank around the corner rather than moving my money. They grew larger and larger, acquiring more small banks but the effect it had on me was non-existent. In the last months I had heard the call to move your money but at 78 years old, I felt like the effort was too much for me. I'd always paid my bills on time and saw none of the evil that others had ascribed to the "too big to fail" banks.

My 44-year relationship with Chase was like a long-term marriage -- I had retired, the kids had moved out and we took each other for granted. Each month I managed to make a few deposits and then that enabled me to make a few withdrawals of sorts. This all changed on December 8, 2009 when I was tempted to open a separate business account by the bank's resident business manager. He showed me all the advantages of having such an account that came with "Sophisticated Fraud Monitoring Tools, Security Alerts and Zero Liability." Since I was applying for a grant and would be getting airline mileage as a bonus, it seemed like a good idea. I gave way to temptation and opened a business account. This was a huge mistake that I am paying for with a loss of funds and stress that is not good for my health.

It is very rare that you find out immediately about a cheating partner, so when I returned from a trip abroad on January 13th and received my first business account statement, I found that on December 18th, my long term partner had gone out on the town and cheated on me. Someone at Chase or -- a friend of someone at Chase -- there's no other way to explain it -- had gotten hold of my never-received debit card and all my personal information including my pin number and went on a spree, racking up $6200 in cash advances and credit card charges. Fourteen transactions were made on the same day that included three trips to an ATM to remove cash and eleven to such places as Juicy Couture, Shalom Dresses, Toys R Us [3x] and to be a bit more upscale, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. The Chase security teams with their vaunted theft algorithms, monitoring tools and security alerts saw none of this as unusual activities, did nothing and was even kind enough to give the perpetrators an overdraft. After all, it was close the Christmas season. Merry Christmas Chase, why spoil the fun of Christmas shopping?

I contacted Chase the day after I received my statement. I pointed out that I had not received a debit card and that it was completely out of character and history for a 78-year-old single man recently out of open heart surgery with no children or grandchildren of Toys R Us age and not in need of a Shalom dress or any of the items that Juicy Couture makes to buy that much crap in one day. I was assured that everything would be put right. After forms were completed and sent to Chase's fraud unit and a report made to the police, I waited to have my faith in Chase's fidelity to our long relationship restored. I trusted Chase to do the right thing by me.

A police investigation showed a woman in a hoodie with a scarf over her face at the ATM using my never-received debit card...immediately, I called Chase's claims department. They kindly informed me that I would not get my money back because, according to their algorithms, I fit the profile of a credit card cheat. Mind you, I am, once again, a 78-year-old retired New York City public school teacher with no criminal record; but according to Chase, I was the most likely suspect. When asked about the woman with the hoodie and the scarf, Chase suggested that she probably was my accomplice.

After weeks of trying to plead my case while professing my innocence and fidelity to Chase, I was rudely told by the people at Chase's Claims Department in Texas that the case was closed and that I should not bother to call them any more.

Like many an innocent spouse who had the horns put on them, Chase cleverly covered their irresponsibility by putting the blame and responsibility for this financial adultery on me. When I mentioned the absurdity to think I'd be shopping at Shalom dresses or Juicy Couture, one employee jokingly remarked, "You'll never know how you'd look in a dress."

For those to lazy to change banks, I too say now is the time. It cost $6200 from my retirement fund for me to realize it's time to move my money. It was a hard lesson to learn, never expecting the kind people at Chase (a financial institution my tax dollars just saved) to repay my 44 years of loyalty by cheating me and then telling me that I was a criminal tranny.