NBC10 Boston Responds

Check washing victim reaches out to NBC10 Boston for help

Mike Bassis lost $1,200 in a check washing scheme, but NBC10 Boston Responds was able to work with him to get it refunded by his bank

NBC Universal, Inc.

How closely do you check your bank statements?

An Attleboro, Massachusetts, man didn’t inspect his well enough and lost more than $1,000 in a scam. He reached out our NBC Boston Responds team for help.

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Mike Bassis dropped his $1,200 quarterly real estate tax payment in a mailbox in December.  Once he saw the money had cleared his account, he didn’t think about it again, until he got his March tax bill.

“I saw the total was $2,460 and I’m looking and there's a $45 late charge on this,” Bassis said.  "When I call the town of Attleboro, they said, well, we never got your check, sir...so at that point that's when I called the bank."

He says he was the victim of a check washing scam.  Someone intercepted his check, altered the payee line and stole his tax payment.

“I was pretty shocked. I track my checks,” Bassis said. "It cleared, the amount was correct, my checkbook balanced… I didn't notice that the name had been changed."

Bassis said he filed a fraud claim with Santander Bank in March, but it was denied. The bank told him that under the terms of Santander’s deposit agreement, he had to notify them of the fraud within 30 days of receiving his January account statement, which included the transaction. He filed a second claim, which was also denied.

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“Somebody went, took my check, changed the name, took my money,” Bassis said.   “The bank's telling me, well, it's over 30 days, there’s nothing we can do about it.  And I’m like, I work hard for that money, that's, you know, that's six months electricity bills over here.  That's three months' taxes on my property.  We all work hard for our money and to get it taken like that, you feel like somebody just, you know, invaded your privacy.”

Almost $16,000 disappeared from his bank account in a check-washing scam.

Bassis, who says he’s banked with Santander for over 20 years,  admits that he didn’t review the check image in his statement.  But he wondered why the bank didn’t flag the altered check.

“The fact that they processed it, they need to do something,” he said.  “They need to figure out some kind of system where they're going to stop this. Because I’m sure this guy is not some super mastermind criminal. He’s just a crook, you know, taking advantage of a lot of people, but taking advantage of a situation that he figured out.”

Bassis contacted NBC10 Boston Responds for help.

“So I said to my wife, I’m going to send an email to Leslie Gaydos,” he told Gaydos in an interview.  “I sent the email and then like two hours later, you answered back, which shocked me. I'm like, boy, this is unbelievable, Karen. I said Karen look, she’s already answered me back!”

We contacted Santander about the situation, asking if the burden of flagging a washed check falls solely on the account holder.   Hours later, Bassis says someone from the bank’s executive office called him and said they were investigating the situation. 

A week and a half later his account was credited the $1,200.

The bank couldn’t discuss details of the situation due to privacy issues,  but a Santander spokesperson told us:

“Santander Bank is committed to supporting our customers. We worked directly with the customer and are pleased to have resolved the matter.”

Bassis is now checking his statements more thoroughly and has stopped using mail collection boxes.  Lessons learned.

“I just appreciate from the bottom of my heart because I felt alone to the point where there's only so much I can do,” he said. “And then you came along and opened up some doors and got some people to listen, which that makes it all difference in the world.”

If you don’t look at the check images on your statement to make sure the payee name wasn’t altered, and just monitor the amount of money going out, you may want to start.  

Generally,  you have up to 30 days from the statement date to notify your bank of an error.  Review your deposit account agreement for policies specific to your bank and your account and check your statements carefully every month!

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