SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Our Team 10 investigators are getting results after a story about the Chime banking app aired last week.
Chime is marketed as an easy and simple online banking experience, but some customers of the banking app said when they had problems with their accounts, the company did not help.
In September, Nicholas Traub said he noticed odd transactions for random amounts — something he said he didn't do. Within a couple of days, his account was drained. He lost more than $3,000. He filed a dispute with Chime, but the company denied it.
Initially, Chime told Team 10 that the account was audited twice and they stood by their decision to deny the claim.
Traub said the morning after Team 10's story aired, Chime returned the money to his account. The email he showed Team 10 said that Chime's "investigation revealed an error occurred."
RELATED: Complaints about Chime banking app
Chime credited his account for $3,148.45 and apologized. An overjoyed Traub spoke to Team 10 investigator Melissa Mecija after he received his money back.
"I can't possibly thank you enough," Traub, currently visiting family in Wisconsin, said via Zoom. "If I was there, I would give you a big hug!"
Chime was his primary account. Part of the money he lost was funding recently raised through a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his girlfriend's funeral.
Traub's girlfriend, Margaret Goleniak, died this past summer of a heart condition.
"My financial aid, my Pell grant, my money from my job and the money I was putting towards a funeral service. The money people had given me to help support us," Traub said when he spoke of the money in his account.
State regulators say Chime is what's called a "neobank" that uses financial technology (also known as "fintech") to operate, primarily in the digital space. They add that it's not a bank, and rules are less stringent than traditional banks.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed more than 1,400 complaints about Chime from January 2020 to late October this year.
Many have posted stories on social media of losing their money placed in Chime accounts. Rob Young created one of those online groups. "First and foremost, you feel violated," he said. "You trust them to handle your money."
Chime is getting the attention of Ohio Senator Sharrod Brown, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
This past summer, he sent a letter to the CFPB's acting director at the time, pressing him to address the risks of Chime.
In an updated statement to Team 10, Senator Brown wrote:
"Big banks are leaving too many people out of the financial system, forcing them to turn to fintechs that claim to make banking easier and cheaper. But ultimately, they aren't much better – fintechs want to act like banks, but lack real consumer protections and end up putting people's money at risk. I urged the CFPB to look into the risks of fintechs like Chime after customers were locked out of their accounts and couldn't access their money to buy groceries, pay their bills, or make rent," said Sen. Brown. "From privacy concerns, to fraud, to hidden fees, to making sure these companies tell the public that they're not actually banks – there's a wide range of issues I am working with the Biden Administration and my colleagues in Congress to address."
The other San Diegan I interviewed, Martin Pamatz, said he had not heard back about his account, but they hope their stories help others make an informed decision about where to put their money.
"You guys are angels," Traub said. "The good you do is not just to me and my family and to Margaret's family, but also to everyone that sees the news. That sees this story.
If you have an issue with a banking app or a financial institution, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation said you can file a complaint online at this link: https://dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint/ [dfpi.ca.gov]
The DFPI also recommends contacting the bank that partners with the financial technology company.
To contact our Team 10 investigators, email: Team10@10News.com