It was with some interest that I read today’s “The Advocate” column in the Times Union.  A man had $400 taken out of his credit union account and the credit union wasn’t going to give it back to him.  He has an account with the State Employees Federal Credit Union (SEFCU).  Another SEFCU member was making a bill payment over the phone and mistyped her account number.  It ended up being his account number and the money was taken from his account.

The guy was on vacation and did not get his bank statements in a timely manner.  When he noticed the error, he contacted SEFCU and they declined to reverse the transaction because he did not notify them within a 60 day window of the transaction.  He contacted the Advocate (Cathy Woodruff), who was able to reach an upper level marketing manager who was able to get the transaction reversed in a few hours.  The manager said that the transaction could have been reversed if the SEFCU member had asked for a manager.

That’s ridiculous, the service representatives that originally handled the case could have easily waved the 60 day period limitation.  It’s just an arbitrary time limit that SEFCU had set, nothing more.  If you think about this, it’s really SEFCU’s fault that they allowed the transaction to go through in the first place.

The woman who typed in the wrong number had made a simple mistake entering in the account number.  There should be enough security in SEFCU’s over the phone banking where you should only be able to access the accounts that you actually have access to.  If you think about, that’s a huge security hole in their system.

Hypothetically speaking, you could open an account with SEFCU today and make payments from other people’s account by lopping one digit of your own account number.  it may work, it may not, but apparently the SEFCU over the phone banking system will let you do that.

You really have to examine your bank statements each month with a fine toothed comb.  And that goes for your credit cards too.  Nearly two years ago, something similar happened to my checking account with Citizens Bank.  You can not count on the bank to protect your money, you have to monitor the transaction for your own fiscal safety.  And if you get caught in a jam like this, contact your local consumer affairs person at the newspaper or TV station.