CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Manuela Martinez says she worked as a file clerk in Driscoll Childrens Hospital's X-Ray Unit for nearly 40 years.
Beginning in September 2003, she began receiving her monthly retirement benefits from a company called AIG. They would make monthly deposits into Martinez's bank account every month, on time, no problem.
That is, until December 2021, when she received an overdraft notice from her bank.
Her account was overdrawn.
"I panicked," she told the Troubleshooters. "I started shaking. I couldn't control myself."
Bank records show that two payments from AIG were sent back to the company in November 2021. The result was an overdraft fee of over $1,500 assessed to Martinez's account.
She said she didn't know what to do. How was she supposed to pay her bills other than get a loan?
When she called AIG, she says she got some rather disturbing news.
"And I told her, how come you pulled out that money from me, because I already knew that they had. And she said 'because it shows that you passed away. You were dead.'"
Martinez further told the Troubleshooters that the AIG representative she spoke with, told her that they had seen her name in the obituary column of a newspaper.
The Troubleshooters contacted AIG, the Texas Banking Association and Frost Bank for this story. All three told us, due to privacy laws, they could not give us any information on what exactly happened with Martinez's account, but we were able to put Martinez in direct contact with a supervisor at AIG.
Turns out, according to Martinez, Frost Bank assessed her $1,540 overdraft fees, but, she showed us her bank records, which show the fees were refunded to her account. Not only that, her January and February pension payments were in her account on time, as usual.
Federal laws do not specify how much banks can charge in overdraft fees, but they are required to disclose any fees when an account is established. Banks can charge the account holder interest on the fees, plus a fee for every day the account is overdrawn.
Banks can also waive overdraft fees at their discretion.