Carl Swanson’s Cautionary Tale

In the summer of 1955, 7-year-old Westporter Carl Addison Swanson had $12.34 in earnings, from his summer landscaping business.

His father marched him down to Southport Savings — a bank later purchased by People’s — to open a savings account.

Carl had his eye on a new baseball mitt. It did not happen. “Depression parents and all?” he wonders today.

Some 61 years later (and still a People’s Bank client), Swanson learned that an investment firm’s error (someone entered the wrong account number) resulted in the transfer of $28,000 from his checking account, to one of the firm’s clients.

People’s fixed the error relatively quickly (about 2 weeks).

But Swanson’s banking woes were not over.

In mid-August, he put a $10,000 check in his mail box to pay his credit card bill.

It never reached Chase. Instead it ended up in someone’s individual account, in a local TD bank.

The FBI, police, US Postal Service, People’s Bank and The Hartford (homeowner’s) insurance company have all tried to get restitution. It still has not happened.

Swanson — himself an attorney — says, “The banks have gotten too big to fail and to serve their customers. Bigger is not always better.”

26 responses to “Carl Swanson’s Cautionary Tale

  1. I would highly recommend on line banking. There is no need to write and mail checks and you can set up automatic payments. The bank will also email you when a payment is due.

    • Unfortunately, online banking would not have, necessarily, prevented this. Depending on the recipient, many checks are printed and mailed and can still be stolen from the mail.

  2. “If you are found guilty of violating 18 U.S. Code § 1708, which covers theft or receipt of stolen mail, then you can be fined heavily and spend up to five years in a federal prison.”

    This currently feels like a failure of the legal system. Why isn’t the thief on trial?

  3. I opened my first account at People’s Bank in 1978. I was four and my parents helped me get that passbook savings account that I had till college. Two years ago due to repeated errors and problems; with sadness, I withdrew all my personal assets and closed my business accounts at People’s Bank.

    The most striking thing to me was not the inexcusable errors and inability to handle tasks like international wire transfers correctly. It was that they let a 40 year customer walk out the door with apology or acknowledgment.

  4. I left People’s 15 or so yeas ago because they could not protect my account.

  5. This may be an example of what just happened in Southport… Thieves steal from mailboxes checks, then bleach out the recipient and put their own name in and deposit using their cell phone

  6. David J. Loffredo

    The evolution of cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance (de-fi), and wider adoption of blockchain technologies as part of moving to Data 3.0 and Web3 development will change the way we all interact financially in the near future and finally but these too big to fail banks and big tech companies in their place.

  7. A similar story. A check made out to a contractor (through Online Banking) was sent incorrectly to an account with TD Bank. After aa few months, TD Bank has still not returned the funds. Maybe that is the only way TD Bank remains in business?

  8. Have always used our small local bank and never had these problems.

  9. This is a systemic problem. Remember the Westport Bank & Trust “a home bank in a town of homes” that ignored principal and sold out to poor service and big bucks the end result after a few other consolidations is TD Bank (Toronto Dominion) The list of consolidations is endless in all sectors and the only loser is the consumer as fees prolificate and increase.

  10. Notice there aren’t any negative stories about The Westport Bank & Trust Company, the greatest bank in the history of mankind! (By the way, no one ever got back to me about the name of that female teller, who with her mother, rented 41 Old Rd., my grandparents former farm house.) Also, there’s no one on the face of the earth that exaggerates LESS than me! You can ‘take that to the bank.’

    • Um… Not sure if you’re being ironic, but that bank was involved with Bernie Madoff. Doesn’t get any more negative than that…

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-madoff-connecticut/connecticut-probing-bank-linked-to-madoff-idUKTRE6355BI20100406

      • Joanne, I banked, for our businesses, at the Westport Bank & Trust Company. Im not sure about name changes in the later years.

      • That article is about Westport National Bank; not to be confused with the late, great Westport Bank & Trust Co.

    • The Westport Bank & Trust Company was a superior bank and a product of it’s time. My Grandfather once told me that when he moved to Westport he was told that an important first step was to open an account with the Westport Bank & Trust Company which of course he did and remained a faithful customer his entire life. I was merely speaking of the evolution of change in the ongoing business consolidations in almost every aspect of our life and its impact on the quality of service we receive. Even local bank personal have to call an 800 number to assist you and try calling the gas, phone or cable company.

  11. Carl sorry that happened to you- very upsetting.

    Pegeen

    Pegeen Gaherin
    Staples 73

  12. Maybe Staples HS should offer a course on financial literatiacy for the Octogenarian set?

  13. With those over 90 years old the fast growing segment of our population, perhaps that is NOT a bad idea James. But not sure your little dig on my “techie” prowess could have prevented a national financial firm from merely withdrawing 28K at will AND/OR a thief taking from my mail box. And as a former Treasury attorney, who closed some 120K banks in the S&L crisis, I can tell you a big bank then was 300K. That is a branch these days. Bigger, faster of NOW hardly replaces the nice walk from Ed Mitchell’s to Colonial National Bank with my paycheck every Friday back in the Wonder Years. No one messed with my “passbook savings” book.

  14. P.S. TD Bank is buying up People’s United. Big Big bigger.

    • We were told by TD Bank last fall NEVER to put a check in the office building mailbox. They recommend a blue box, but even those had been tampered with. The recommend going into the post office f we need to mail a check. Very sad. With Christmas coming we will see theft increase a lot.

  15. Never mail a check, especially out of your own mailbox. Too much risk. Pay electronically instead.

  16. Payment via snail mail to a viable financial institution, vice a regular vendor, seems quite secure. That said, electronic banking fraud is up 49% this year after soaring to 149% last year. With all the new businesses, ample new information for hackers. And let us not forget about major companies being ransomed for millions. If your info is out there, a hacker can find it. But after being hacked twice and waiting 6 months for reimbursement, I pay my mortgage and credit card in person to the various banking branches. Thank you for the article, makes one think.

  17. Sometimes the bad publicity this kind of story generates can actually wake up a lazy bank and turn things around. Fingers crossed!

  18. Diana B Pils Marino

    I had a similar problem with Peoples Bank in 2016. I rolled over my Roth IRA’S to my Qualified Retirement Plan at another place. My fault for not fully following up but .. one check was rolled over, one was “mailed” (Peoples Retirement was still antiquated) but never received. It was Fall 2016 but when I spoke to them in 2017 they said they mailed it but upon further research it wasn’t cashed. I said you’re a bank .. don’t you balance monthly, quarterly and year end? They said not when it comes to Retirement monies. (I still have that voicemail since I was so dumbfounded by a bank saying that). Peoples Bank kicked me out in Dec 2018. They would not give me a reason. I had been with them since 1976. My student loans for college were with them (and paid back early). I spoke to a VP at Peoples and he said they didn’t need to give me a reason as to why we were getting kicked out of the bank. No wonder M&T took them over in 2021. Maybe now they’ll be better.

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