Progress Steals from Ex-Subscriber

The headline might seem harsh, but there’s just no better way to put it. In Barbara Nordin’s column in this week’s Hook, she handles a complaint from John Casey, who subscribed to the Daily Progress until mid-2003, when he decided to stop getting it. He got a letter from the paper about his “EZ Pay” subscription, seeking updated information about automatically sucking money out of his bank account to pay for his nonexistent subscription. It turns out that in the past year, they’ve taken a total of $158.34 out of his bank account without his permission — he never signed up for any such payment plan. (It is a fundamental and frightening aspect of the banking system that anybody can do this to anybody’s account at any time, armed with no more information than the account number, as written on the bottom of every check; there’s no way to block it.) When Casey’s wife called the Progress to demand her money back, they refused, caving only after Barbara Nordin called to investigate. The Progress refuses to explain what’s going on, leaving, as Nordin writes, some serious unexplained questions.

12 Responses to “Progress Steals from Ex-Subscriber”


  • Headline should have read "Progress and Bank Conspire to Steal"

    Now I`m no big fan of the Progress as I am often revolted by their style – but I also am aware if there is a swipe to be taken at the Progress then the Hook will step up to the plate and take it – OK – "all`s fair in love and hate" but not to bear down on the bank`s role in this is not good reporting.

    I will be much more concerned, in an incident such as this, as to how the bank, without my express authorization, is doling out funds from my accounts.

    Again, not to let the Progress off the hook (no pun intended) but in my view, based solely upon the facts presented, the bank is the larger culprit and that lead should have been pursued although I expect it would have taken more initiative and perseverance than was expended.

  • Waldo opined: It is a fundamental and frightening aspect of the banking system that anybody can do this to anybody’s account at any time, armed with no more information than the account number, as written on the bottom of every check; (there’s no way to block it.)

    I think this is not factual. There may be an element of truth but "anybody can do this to anybody’s account at any time" (with account number) I think is way overboard.

  • I don’t think Waldo’s off-base on this one. I’ve had a banker explain to me that they will routinely permit such automatic debits to anybody who presents the account number.

    They count on their customer to complain if there’s an unauthorized debit that’s made to their account. At that point, they’ll make the adjustment to make their customer whole and stop further debits.

    That’s why, given such lax banking procedures, you’ve got to review your bank statements carefully, folks.

  • Well, yes, but the debitor requires at least some ACH capability, which is not a given to just anybody. That said, this situation is akin to the stupid ‘Opt Out’ rule for direct marketers. ‘Opt In’ is the only logical and fair way to do this. Just like bank debits, there should be a requirement of Express Permission.

  • Baks need to bear much responsability. Recently, I had the occasion to have to deal with a stolen check through the mail and deposited to an account that was specifically not endorsed. Unless you can wield the law potently against the culprit bank – which I thankfully can – the average American is at the mercy of the goodwill of banks, which means you may very well not be happy with the outcome.

  • Well Harry, as Sympatico said, there must be some relationship in existence and my post stands as an objection to sweeping statements that go overboard in their compass. Waldo said "anybody, anytime" and that is incorrect.

    My main thrust was to aver the Nordin article was "underdone" and as a community service would have been much more effective if the bank involvement had been much more deeply explored; and if, as you and Waldo seemd to think, "Anyone in the world can tap one`s bank account with only the account number" that fact, if indeed it is one, needs exploration.

    It is well known bankers apparently think it is easier to make restitution than to exercise stringent cautions, but to place the onus entirely on the Progress, is misdirection in my view.

  • My brother had a local ISP remove money from his account. He and I sat down with our banker, who explained that, as a 20-year veteran of the business, she has never found any way to prevent a debit from occurring on an account. It can only be fixed after the fact, and even then, only within 30 days, IIRC. We were both appalled, convinced that this could not be true and it turned into a lengthy discussion in which we were proven altogether wrong.

    I’m not claiming to be an expert on banking by any means. I’m merely describing the situation as I understand it, based on my firsthand experience and research. If somebody could describe a method by which I could prevent a business from doing this to me account, I would be very happy to be shown to be wrong yet again.

  • I tend to bristle at the idea of “that’s just the system,” or “that’s just how it works.” We’ve all been there — you go to a store, but they can’t sell you anything, because “the computers are down.” You call tech support, but they can’t help you, because they’re “having network problems.” It drives me nuts.

    This is, as I understand it, a fundamental aspect of the banking system — a bank cannot take part in the ACH system without buying into the whole thing.

    Is the bank at fault? Absolutely. But I have a hard time blaming them, for reasons that I see are not altogether rational. Unless it’s a big, nasty bank, like SunTrust or Wachovia. Then I hold them totally responsible. ;)

  • Trust me, if the ACH system were taking money out of the banks w/o permission, it would change tomorrow to accomodate them. No, like everything in the US, unless there’s a large enough demographic to promote or opppose anything, be damned fairness and justice. Now THAT is the name of the game circa 2004.

  • Waldo, when you modify your statement to "any business" as opposed to "anyone, anytime" it probably has more credence.

    To me, as I stated, the prime issue (if we can name this incident an issue) remains one of incomplete reporting and involvement of the bank to get, as Paul Harvey might say ,"the rest of the story". It certainly can do no harm to have the bank go on record to a member of a reporting staff and explain their inadequate procedures.

  • Waldo, when you modify your statement to "any business" as opposed to "anyone anytime" it probably has more validity.

    To me, as I stated, the issue remains one of incomplete reporting and involvement of the bank to get as Paul Harvey might say "the rest of the story". It certainly can do no harm to have the bank go on record

    to a member of a reporting staff and explain their inadequate procedures.

  • You dont have to be a business. All you have to do is understand the electronic banking system.

    Businesses arent the only entities that are entitled to use the banking system.

Comments are currently closed.

Sideblog