What started out as a routine home-insurance claim payout ended up in months of frustration for a San Diego family when their bank froze the funds they needed to pay a contractor and cover other expenses associated with repairs after a plumbing issue damaged a couple of bathrooms and a bedroom.
Back in September, Safeco Insurance approved the claim and sent two checks for more than $31,000 to Octavio Rincon and his wife Claudia Lopez that they subsequently deposited into their Chase account.
“The next day when I tried to buy something online, my card didn’t go through,” said Rincon, adding that they quickly found their account had been frozen.
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The two checks were made out to Octavio, Claudia, and Planet Home Lending but only Claudia endorsed it when she deposited them into their joint account with a live teller. Three signatures were needed.
“Chase took the checks, they cashed the checks because they sent it to the maker’s bank, and even the maker’s bank cashed it with the missing endorsements,” Rincon explained, saying that it was their first time depositing a check that included a third party.
To complicate things even more, Planet Home Lending was not even the right lienholder. Rincon said he kicks himself for not catching it before going to the bank. However, he doesn’t give Safeco Insurance a pass for sending the checks in the first place.
“In my mobile app from Liberty, it says my current lender but in their system it doesn’t have my current lender, so they made the check to the wrong lender,” said Rincon.
He added that what followed were almost six months worth of emails and phone calls trying to get Chase and Safeco to work out a way he and his wife could get access to the money. The contractor they hired was also waiting to be paid.
NBC 7 Responds Steps in...
They reached out to NBC 7 Responds asking for help and we contacted JP Morgan Chase and Liberty Mutual, which run Safeco Insurance. After we contacted them, Liberty Mutual helped the couple file a claim with Chase to get the checks back, so they could reuse them with the right lienholder this time.
Liberty Mutual told us they were waiting on Chase to return the original checks but Chase told us they were having trouble getting a hold of someone at Liberty Mutual. A stalemate between both companies that Octavio says he knows all too well. “Just back and forth and a lot of times they don’t even answer,” he said.
He added that the ping-ponging between the two companies finally stopped once NBC 7 intervened. “I got an email right away (indicating) that they would check my situation and from there, it went smoother and smoother."
Finally, the two new checks arrived at his mailbox. It was something he was beginning to fear would never happen.
Liberty Mutual did not give us an official statement regarding what happened. Chase wants to remind folks that checks made out to multiple parties require a signature from each one. When asked if the teller should’ve made sure the checks were signed correctly, Chase told NBC 7 they would not be giving any additional statements.