Action 9: Bank can't find Charlotte man's $4,000

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - You give a bank thousands of dollars.  You get a receipt.  You don't expect the bank to come back and say it never got your money.
 
Anthony Harris's mother totaled his last car.  "It was t-boned," he said.  She was ok.  His insurance company gave him $8,000.  He planned to pitch in another $8,000 and buy a more expensive car.  He wanted to pay off half of the difference, $4,000, so he went to Fifth Third Bank and got a money order for $4,000.  He gave it to the lender, SunTrust Bank and got a receipt. 
 
Action 9:  "You did what you're supposed to do: You had your paperwork, you got the receipt. It's not supposed to be that difficult."
Harris:  "No."
 
But, later, SunTrust said it couldn't find his money; that he never paid. 
 
Action 9:  "Did you show them the receipt?"
Harris:  "Yes."
Action 9:  "What did they say when they saw the receipt?"
Harris:  "They made copies, they called, they researched, they still came up with nothing."
 
The Better Business Bureau's Tom Bartholomy said that probably means there was something wrong with the money order itself.  "It could have been an invalid number.  It could have been any number of problems with that money order itself," he said.
 
Harris felt the banks were giving him the runaround and, then, he says, stopped returning his calls.  So he contacted Action 9.  Action 9 contacted Fifth Third because you should start with the business that issued the money order, not the one you gave it to.
 
While it's still not clear whether there was something wrong with the original money order, Fifth Third agreed to let it expire and issue Harris a new one.  That one worked.
 
"I felt real wonderful, you know, been a couple of months, so glad to get it resolved," said Harris.
 
So, like Harris, keep your receipt.  And be careful with money orders.  They have a lot of advantages, but can lead to administrative delays.  Sometimes, a cashier's check, or even personal check, can be better.