This is not a request for legal advice. It’s just a thought experiment, which came to me after reading John Grisham’s “The Partner”.
I understand that if someone mugs me and takes my wallet, or breaks into my house and takes my wallet, then that cash is gone. My only recourse is to get it from the person who stole it. This is because there is there is a physical item (the cash) which has been taken.
I think bank accounts should work differently. If I have money in the bank, and someone who is pretending to be me withdraws that money, who did he steal it from? From me, or from the bank?
It seems to me that even though I have money on deposit in the bank, it is not possible to point to any specific dollar bills and say that they are mine, whereas other dollar bills are on deposit for someone else. It’s all just numbers and accounting. Therefore, if someone fools the bank into giving them some money under false pretenses, the bank is the victim, not me. If I can prove that I am not the one who authorized the transaction, then that should be all that is necessary for the bank to put the money back into my account. I shouldn’t need to rely on any modern laws about identity theft, and I certainly shouldn’t need to rely on any generous customer friendly bank policies.
In the novel I mentioned in the first paragraph, the bank admitted that it had been fooled by an identity thief, but claimed that there was nothing they could do for the proper owners of the account. “The money is gone.” It seems to me that yes, the money is gone, but that’s the bank’s problem, not the account holder’s. Does this make any sense? Has anyone tried this approach?
(Similarly, if someone steals my credit card number, and uses it, and the bank cannot prove that I authorized it, then it should be their problem, not mine.)