SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Complaints about a popular financial technology company continue, roughly a year after Team 10 first covered Chime.
Chime used to be where Dayna Avelar kept her money. The company is marketed as having easy online banking experience, but some customers—like Avelar—said that is not the case.
“I got two direct deposits before I started having problems,” Avelar said.
She said somehow, someone else was able to get control of her account and take out some money. At this point, she does not know how that happened. Avelar disputed it and said she was able to get that amount back.
“I changed my password. I had changed my login information. They sent me a new card. They assured me everything was going to be okay,” Avelar told Team 10 during an interview via Zoom.
However, she said everything was not okay.
Her phone number was changed on her account and even now, she does not know how. She continued to deal with problems.
"About two or three days later, same thing happens. They took literally all of the money out of my account. Thousands of dollars,” she said.
After a police report and a lot of back and forth with Chime, Avelar said she was able to reach a partial resolution. “They refunded my money, but refused to close my account,” she said.
“I can't verbally talk to anybody on the phone. I have to email in order to get somebody to respond to me because I don't know the number [on my account],” Avelar continued.
The financial technology industry is growing, according to Dan Roccato, a clinical professor of finance at the University of San Diego.
“It’s a competitive market,” he said. “They want a piece of your purse. There’s no doubt about it.”
Roccato said the technology, often known as “fintech,” allows consumers access to financial services online through the convenience of their smartphones.
However, customer service can be an issue.
“It has limited support in many cases. A lot of these platforms really haven’t built out their customer support capability to keep up with their clients’ needs.” Roccato said.
Anaya is another Chime customer who said she dealt with a huge loss of money. She declined to use her last name for privacy concerns.
“My money started coming out of my account,” she said. “It’ s not just $20, $40 here and there. It’s $500… repeatedly.”
She said the suspicious activity started happening after her tax refund was deposited into her account.
“[Chime] closed my account because I filed a dispute for my money,” Anaya said. “They denied all of my disputes within the day. With a normal bank, it normally takes a few days, but with them, it took them a day,” Anaya said.
In Anaya’s case, a Chime spokesperson said the company “stands by the original decision” and said the member was notified regarding their account status.
They would not share additional information to protect the privacy of their members.
Anaya said she was still looking for a better explanation and even tried reaching out to Chime via Twitter. They blocked her account.
“They're very horrible. They don't take the time,” Anaya said.
State regulators say Chime is a neobank—non-traditional banking—that uses fintech to operate digitally.
Last year, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) wanted to make sure consumers knew that. In a settlement agreement, the agency prohibited Chime from calling itself a “bank” in any of it marketing material. The agreement said the company must clarify that they work with banking partners.
Even so, consumer attorney Ben Coughlan said people need to be cautious.
What are they marketing? It’s all the same thing banks are marketing,” he said. “While they are not a bank, they are competing with banks and that is in a sense, very difficult for most consumers to understand.”
He encourages customers to document everything they do if they start running into problems with certain companies. While legal action is an option, Coughlan knows it is not always possible for some.
“[Find] other avenues… writing reviews online, finding journalists who are covering these things, and holding these companies responsible is incredibly important,” Coughlan said.
Consumers can also report issues to agencies like the DFPI and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
From October last year to early November this year, a DFPI spokesperson told Team 10 they received 342 complaints about Chime. The spokesperson confirmed they are “currently investigating Chime’s dispute resolution practices.”
For both Avelar and Anaya, there is no resolution. A Chime spokesperson told Team 10 in Avelar’s case, the “member services team was in touch with her on Aug. 19 and communicated Chime’s requirements to initiate the account closure.”
Avelar cannot give them the required information, like the phone number connected to the account, because she said it has been changed without her permission.
“Be careful. Definitely be careful of putting your money in there,” Avelar warned.