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RBC customers get Friday the 13th scare

An apparent computer problem at a company that processes debit card transactions for banks left RBC Bank customers unable to pay for goods and services Friday morning and with seemingly overdrawn accounts.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.

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."


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