Woman's Money Disappears After Citibank Sign-Up Snag

ABC News Fixer shares important tips before you sign up for auto-pay services.

THE ABC NEWS FIXER— -- Dear ABC News Fixer: In June, I set up online bill-paying with Citibank to pay my mortgage. After I entered in the information, the system came up with an address for the servicer of my loan. I chose them as the payee, and proceeded to make a payment of $1,578.33. The payment cleared on June 13.

Sometime later, I contacted the mortgage company about a completely different matter, and that’s when I found out they had not received the payment.

Since then, I have been back and forth with Citibank and the loan company, which is telling me they don't even have a location where I sent the money and they have no clue as to where my money may be. Citibank is telling me because the funds were transmitted electronically and cleared, I need to contact these "invisible" people to find out how to get my money returned.

I have triple-checked my payee list to look for a street address, and all that comes up is the city, state and ZIP code for this fictitious location. I am in desperate need of help. Some of us can't afford to just give away more than $1,500!

-Susan Lane, Chicago

Do YOU have a consumer problem? Maybe The Fixer can help! Submit your problems at ABCNews.com/Fixer.

Dear Susan: No kidding there. A lot of us can’t afford to throw away $1,500.

The ABC News Fixer was more than happy to delve into this banking black hole to try to locate your money.

We got in touch with Citi, figuring they’d have some way to retrace the route your money took. The good news is they did that and were able to credit your account within about a week.

We never did find out exactly what went wrong with your account setup, but Citi told us that consumers need to be careful when setting up automatic bill-paying, because sometimes payees have multiple addresses and the address field may populate with the wrong choice.

“Our advice to clients who are unsure when they encounter multiple merchants with similar names is to manually enter the full company name and address, as if to send a check,” a Citi spokesman said. “We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Automatic payments can be a lifesaver for busy people, but this isn’t the first time The Fixer has heard from a viewer who lost a payment. Another common error is selecting a payee that has a similar name but is a completely different business from the company you’re trying to pay.

A couple more tips:

- Before you pre-schedule your monthly payments, ask how long it takes to process an online payment. You don't want your payments arriving a day late and triggering an annoying late-payment fee.

- Ask whether your bank's online bill pay agreement allows them to take the money out of your account early; some do, if you're a new customer or are scheduling a large payment.

- Check your account frequently. Make sure subscriptions you’ve cancelled are not still hitting your account each month.

- And finally, find out whether payments are debited on the "send" date or on the date they arrive at the payee. That way, you’ll know precisely when each payment is leaving your account, so you can avoid getting a negative bank account balance.

- The ABC News Fixer

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