Is your closed bank account really closed?

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by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 9, 2011 at 7:27 PM

SEATTLE -- Perhaps a legacy of the Occupy Wall Street movement will be the tens of thousands of people who moved their money and closed their bank accounts.

Or so they think. Sometimes, accounts you think are closed don't seem to stay that way.

"For this to happen the way it did is really unsettling," said Chris Brooks, who gladly gave us her two cents about her recent departure from Bank of America.

Though, in her case, it was one cent.

"It's not so much about the penny," she said. "It's a lousy penny, but it's about what it stands for."

In October, Brooks was among those frustrated customers who canceled bank accounts over penalties and potential fees for debit card usage.  But she continued to get statements in the mail for her credit, savings and checking accounts, which prompted a few trips to the bank.

"I went over there three times," she said, "and every time I walked out I was certain in my mind that my account was closed, and it wasn't."

Then, last week, her supposedly closed savings account suddenly had a balance of $0.01.

The Better Business Bureau says others have complained about similar situations, and Brooks might actually be lucky -- in some cases, seemingly reopened accounts unknowingly get hit with overdraft penalties.

"When you cancel your bank account, you can't go reopen that same account, so in my mind as a consumer, it would work the other way around," said Susan Schutz with BBB of Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington.

Schutz said sometimes third parties, like online merchants, can talk directly with a bank without notifying the customer. Other times, the account holder doesn't realize they have pending payments that keep the account open.  And in some cases, interest payments post to the account after the fact.

In any cast, Schutz said to be thorough when questioning your bank about pending transactions and anything else that might cause problems.

"While they don't want to lose your business, they should be completely up front with the entire process," she said.

A spokesperson for Bank of America tells KING-5 they want to contact Brooks directly before they comment on her situation, but added that closed accounts generally stay closed.

The BBB said another way to check your account status is to run a credit report through annualcreditreport.com, since banks are required to tell the credit bureaus you've closed your account.

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