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The bank only has to for pay for 60 days of stolen funds? Ask the lawyer

Q: Dad was the victim of fraudulent electronic transfers from his bank account. He has a level of senility and did not discover the theft until four months in. The bank tells us they will reimburse what was taken the first 60 days, but that’s it. Is the bank able to limit payment to 60 days?

P.G., Seal Beach

Ron Sokol
Ron Sokol

A: Electronic fraud is sadly all too common and has become increasingly sophisticated. The federal law is such that the account holder (your dad, or whoever is handling his affairs) has a duty to keep track of his account and to promptly report suspicious or criminal activity. The bank is liable for the amount of the theft during the first 60 days from when it started, but after that, the account holder (I am sad to say) is probably not able to recover more from the bank. You will want to consult with qualified counsel to assess the circumstances — including to evaluate if by any chance someone at the bank was involved — but the law can be harsh. So, bottom line: Keep close tabs on what is going on with your bank account!

Q: We have a dispute with our bank and plan to sue. We met with a lawyer who said we have to get a copy of our account agreement. The bank referred us to an online link (they said “that’s the basic account agreement”). We have no recollection of agreeing to the terms and conditions we found there, which includes a requirement we arbitrate all disputes. Are we stuck?

A.S., Newport Beach

A: The lawyer’s suggestion that you get a copy of your account agreement is sound. What I think he or she means is the account agreement you signed, be it via electronic signature or otherwise, or which in some manner you have acknowledged applies to your account. It can be frustrating to learn the terms and conditions to which you are (or may be) subject because you do not recall signing, or do not recall receipt of the terms and conditions, let alone going through them. Often, banks have their basic account terms and conditions online, but to be clear: Seek to get the account agreement to which you are party by signature, or by some other form by which you could be said to have acknowledged and agreed that those are the terms and conditions. If possible, put the bank to the task of demonstrating you actually agreed.

Q: Can a bank refuse to open a checking account for me?

T.B., Los Angeles

A: Yes, there may be circumstances upon which a bank can refuse to open an account. For example, if you are in a database or otherwise identified as having written bad checks, or you do not have adequate or recognized identification. There are many banks, however, and some may work with you more readily than others.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 40 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional. 

Source: Orange County Register

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