I recently had the misfortune of having an ATM error while in the UK and withdrawing money from the First Bank account – only half of the money came out. I immediately went to the bank responsible for the ATM (Barclays Bank) and they informed me – correctly – that the issue has to be dealt with by the bank from whom the withdrawal was being made (in this case, FirstBank).
Once I got back to the BVI, I went to First Bank and filled out lots of paperwork, including updating my postal address so I would retrieve an application form they needed to send me, I never received the form but I did receive confirmation of a ‘provisional’ credit for the disputed amount of $452.56.
The next thing I know, I got a letter First Bank saying that they had completed their investigation and found no evidence of an error and they reversed the credit (took my money for a second time!) – best of all, the date they decided was the perfect time to rob someone of their money? Christmas Eve. Well done First Bank – a true corporate scrooge has emerged:
To add insult to injury, I also discovered that when they updated my address as part of the process, they updated the wrong account so now my personal account has my old address and the company I work for is having its statements sent to my home address!
I repeatedly called the number on the letter to discuss the matter but never got an answer once. I called in to the Road Town (Tortola, BVI) branch on the 31st January 2014 to discuss the matter and had the letter taken off me and was told someone would be in touch. I’ve heard that before.
The most frustrating thing is the total lack of transparency in this process – I’ve been given no evidence to support their claims or proof and investigation was done or that the ATM provider in the UK was even contacted.
Update 29th March 2014
Unsurprisingly I still haven’t heard anything and my attempts to get put through to the right person in the BVI office just result me being transferred to phones that just ring and ring
Update 25th April 2014
I got an email today from the First Bank Branch Manager “Ronald Emanuel” asking me to call him – woohoo I though, an update at last. I tried calling but unfortunately got transferred to one of the ‘PRPs’ (Perpetually Ringing Phones) and no voicemail so I responded by email. My Emanuel replied saying he was actually querying my withdrawal from an ATM that had taken me overdrawn. So it seems if I owe them a small amount of money, the branch manager is on the case and all hell breaks loose – if they owe over $400, I can’t even get response.
Mr Emanuel called me back and said that he couldn’t find anyone willing to accept responsibility for having accept the letter from me at the branch and recommended that I draft a letter to him and “Amarilis Gonzalez” and send it to him, requesting the claim be re-opened.
Update 28th April 2014
I wrote and sent the letter to My Emanuel, who in turn confirmed he had forwarded it to Ms. Gonzalez as I was unable to get through to her on the phone number I had for her (no answer, no voicemail – a trend at FirstBank) – we’ll see if anything happens now or if they will keep my money.
Update 21st May 2014
I had another ATM error today with an ATM inside a Barclays Bank – I had the contact details of the lady dealing with it and she has confirmed that the machine shorted me by £100 and that she has personally handled the paperwork to have this returned to my First Bank account – let’s see if this cash turns up either or if this First Banks ‘Modus operandi’.
Update 22nd May 2014
After repeated attempts to call the number First Bank gave me to review the ‘evidence’ that is grounds for their debit from my account (no one ever answers and there’s no voicemail) I emailed the BVI branch manager “Ronald Emanuel” again asking if he had heard anything, he got back to me stating:
Ms. Gonzalez should have communicated directly with you via mail. In any event she did indicated that on 10/30/13, the merchant was charged $452.56 and you received the corresponding credit. Subsequently, the merchant charged us on 12/10/2013, and a corresponding debit was applied to your account.
Ms. Gonzalez’s contact information is listed on the communication you received regarding the claims. Please reach out to her directly if you have further questions.
Unfortunately this really doesn’t help me much as ‘Ms. Gonzalez’ isn’t answering her phone – I emailed back with the following and am awaiting a response:
Dear Mr Emanuel,
Thank you for your email – unfortunately I have tried the phone number listed at the bottom of both pieces of correspondence (+1 787 729 8353) over and over again and not only does no one ever answer, there is no voicemail service either so I can’t even leave a message.
I have taken to recording the phone calls and have attached one so you can see what is happening if you wish.
I understand that the money was credited to my account and then debited again, indeed the second letter I sent you confirms this. Essentially, I was credited the amount immediately ‘pending an investigation’. Once the ‘investigation’ had taken place, the money was withdrawn again (on Christmas Eve I might add).
The letter I was sent specifically says that there is evidence I can review but given that I can’t get in touch with the department holding said evidence, it would seem that I am being ‘stonewalled’ – I have no means of recourse, no ‘proof’ has been provided and I am still missing a big chunk of my money.
What is made worse is that I had a similar ATM error yesterday – fortunately this time it was with the ATM inside my UK bank and I have the name and details of the person that will be initiating the process to have the funds re-credited to my First Bank account. If this amount doesn’t turn up either, I have clear grounds – and evidence – for legal action. Needless to say I am documenting this entire process until it is satisfactorily resolved.
I’m sorry if the tone of this email seems somewhat frustrated – especially as you have been most helpful – but given that the only people that I can contact have only one phone number and they are not answering it, it’s very frustrating. I feel I have, in essence, been robbed of money by the very bank tasked with protecting it.
If you have any alternative contact details for Ms. Gonzalez or her department it would be much appreciated.
I’ll keep trying the phone number provided but I’m not convinced its even in service anymore which means I have no way of getting in touch with the department that pulled almost $500 from my account (on Christmas Eve). Outstanding work First Bank.
I have also sent a message to Manuel Muchacho Belloso the Vice President at FirstBank Puerto RIco:
Estimado señor Belloso,
Disculpas por correo electrónico a usted en relación con este asunto, pero he intentado todas las demás opciones. Debido a un error de ATM en 2013, 450 dólares fue acreditado y debitado de mi cuenta bancaria.
El departamento que se ocupa de esto, el departamento de “Gestión del riesgo financiero” se han * nunca * respondido al número de teléfono que me dieron (787) 729 8353.
Mi reclamo es legítimo, pero no puedo ni hablar con nadie.
Si se pudiera ofrecer cualquier ayuda sería muy apreciada.
Dear Mr Belloso,
Apologies for emailing you regarding this matter but I have tried all other options. Due to an ATM error in 2013, $450 was credited and then debited from my bank account.
The department that deals with this, the “Financial Risk Management” department have *never* answered the phone number I was given (787) 729 8353.
My claim is legitimate but I cannot even speak to anyone.
If you could offer any assistance it would be much appreciated.
Robert McKay, Account Number 7281056321
19 July 2014, Final Update: Success!
After 7 months, many many man hours of phone calls and charges on my account due to the missing funds I’m happy to say my account was recently credited with the missing $452.56. The vice president sent me a message after I contacted him via LinkedIn saying he would look in to it and get back to me – while I never heard back I can only assume this credit was a result of him making enquiries on my behalf. When I returned to the BVI today, I found a standard letter from First Bank confirming the error and the credit – no apologies for all the time they withheld my money and no mention of their mistake (and no recompense) but its better than nothing.