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RBC customers get Friday the 13th scare

Posted February 13, 2009
Updated October 12, 2011

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— For thousands of RBC Bank customers across the southeast, Friday the 13th got off to an ominous start.

A computer problem at a company that processes debit card transactions for banks left RBC customers from Virginia to Alabama unable to pay for goods and services Friday morning and with reported overdrafts that ranged up to $60,000.

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Wanda Flowers of Raleigh said she checked her RBC account Friday morning and found a negative balance of $4,758 instead of the roughly $2,000 that was supposed to be there.

"I was in tears. I was about ready to lose it," Flowers said. "It is serious when you're dealing with people's bank accounts, especially when you can't get something to eat or fill your car up with gas."

RBC officials tracked the problems to TSYS, the Columbus, Ga.-based processing firm, and added that they believed other banks' customers also were affected. The situation was resolved by 11 a.m., and account balances had been restored.

Bank of America and First Citizens Bank said their customers weren't affected by the glitch. Representatives of other banks couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

TSYS blamed the problem on "a processing error."

"Some cardholders experienced delays and were unable to complete transactions. We are able to continue processing and regret any inconvenience experienced by our client and RBC's customers," TSYS spokesman Cyle Mims said in a statement. "We have resolved this matter, and no customers should experience any further impact. No data, cardholder numbers or personal information were compromised."

The corrupted computer file that caused the glitch affected about 150,000 debit card transactions from Thursday, officials said.

RBC Chief Executive Scott Custer said no one lost any money during the incident, and the bank's security wasn't breached. Still, he said, he understood the panic that took hold of customers Friday morning.

"It's frightening, almost," Custer said. "You think about your bank and your money's there, and then all of a sudden, somebody's made an error and your money's gone.

"In today's environment, where there's so much concern not just about the economy but about banks, certainly concern is heightened," he said. "I want to be sure people know, No. 1, your money's absolutely safe at RBC, and No. 2, this was an error that occurred by our vendor and, in a few short hours, we had it corrected."

Many people told WRAL News that cash registers declined their debit cards Friday morning and online inquiries showed their bank accounts overdrawn by thousands of dollars. Some said they couldn't even go online or get through to the bank's toll-free number to check their accounts.

Chris Marion of Southern Pines said he and his wife were stunned when they checked their account balance.

"We had $25,000 missing out of my account," Marion said. "With the problems of the economy and bank bailout, the first thing you think is this bank is struggling and couldn’t cover their accounts."

He said he planned to drive to a branch to get "assurance our money is still there."

Rick Brogden e-mailed WRAL News to say he had a similar problem.

“I found my account overdrawn $5,000 (Friday) morning and cannot get in touch with RBC," he wrote. "Automated response says nothing and hangs up on you after six rings when you try to speak to a rep."

Flowers said her account balance had returned to normal by Friday afternoon, but the incident left her shaken.

"You can't have something like this happen, especially with drafts coming in. I have a draft going out next week for a large sum, and I thought, 'Oh God, what's going to happen if that draft fails?'" she said. "I might check (my balance) twice a day from now on."

127 Comments

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  • james27613 Feb 13, 2009

    Regulation E spells out the rules the bank must follow for
    these debit and electronic funds transfers.

    http://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/6500-3100.html

  • james27613 Feb 13, 2009

    if you must use a debt check card, keep minimal fund in the
    account, never add a line of credit to that account or
    link your credit card for overdraft protection.

    should you card or check fall into the wrong hands,
    they will drain it in a blink of an eye before you find out.

  • james27613 Feb 13, 2009

    Never, ever use a debit card for any major purchase.
    Use your credit card and pay it off instead.

    Debit cards do not protect the consumer, Credit cards do
    have tough consumer rules in place to protect you.

    It can take weeks for a merchant bank to put back any
    money you used on a debit card to your check account.

    Banks push these fake MasterCard and Visa check cards on
    the customers because the banks make more profit on any
    debit card transactions compared to a visa or mastercard credit
    transaction.

  • Fiddlemom Feb 13, 2009

    This is why I stopped using debit cards a long time ago and write very few checks. I never keep more than a couple of hundred dollars in the bank. There are other alternatives to keep money safe.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 13, 2009

    DougWare.NET - it was your fault. You are supposed to check the information on the new checks to make sure it is correct.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 13, 2009

    Why do people not pay attention to what is going on in the world? I quit using debit cards quite some time ago for a variety of reasons. I went back to using cash. Even if you prefer to use those debit cards, at least keep 50 or dollars stashed in your wallet or purse. That way, you at least have some money when one of these problems surface. This stuff is chronic and will continue to happen. There is no such thing as a secure database so long as the machine where that data resides is connected to a network. Want another tip. Have money in more than one bank or credit union. If your account gets locked up in one bank, you will have access to your other account. Banks can lock up your accounts for a fair amount of time and you will not have access to your funds.

  • uncfan89 Feb 13, 2009

    my account is now fixed. Mine was missing about 3,500 this am luckly I was not over drawn had just mailed out bills for the month though and they have not cleared yet, my concern was that something might bounce. Went to the local branch they looked on the computer,and found the problem I had used my debit card at lunch yesterday and on one transaction they had put over 2,000 dollars on hold instead of te $9.48 that it should have been. The lady was very nice and expained that they were working on it and hoped to have it resolved by lunch time I called the automated system at 11am and my account was fixed they said that they think that other banks were probably effected because it was a problem with the company that processes the debit card transactions.

  • DougWare.NET Feb 13, 2009

    Sk00L,

    I bounced 8 checks within a week once because the bank shipped me incorrectly printed checks (the account number didn't exist). Not only did they refund all the fees (including the fees to the people I wrote the checks to), they wrote me several letters to give to the people I bounced the checks to explaining that it wasn't my fault.

    That's why I bank with a credit union, the service there is so much more personal and they go above and beyond to keep us happy because we own the bank.

  • DougWare.NET Feb 13, 2009

    "With the problems of the economy and bank bailout, the first thing you think is this bank is struggling and couldn’t cover their accounts."

    I'm sorry, this comment is just stupid. The first thing that would have gone through my mind is identity theft, bank error, even a mistake on my part or store (see Circuit City note below).

    I was overdrawn by $1,200 one morning when the bank called me to tell me of the problem. I carry two checking accounts, and the one with my debit card linked to is always contains minimal money. I do a lot of shopping online/paypal and it's a security measure. I had transferred $1,300 to my debit card several months ago shopping at Circuit City. They had authorized my account for the $1,250. But when the charge was processed in the next couple of days, they didn't reference the hold correctly and it ended up taking $1,250 out of my account. That was on top of the $1,250 they still had a hold on. The bank took care if it within an hour.

  • THE HECK YOU SAY Feb 13, 2009

    Mine was overdrawn $18,000 but I thought RBC handled it very well. I drove to the bank they explained everything and said nothing would bounce or be returned and let me withdraw money with no problems. I've banked with them for about 12 years and have never had so much as a hiccup with them. I think that is a pretty good track record. Prior to this I was with Wachovia and had nothing but problems.

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