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How Citibank Charged TPM for Executive Substance Abuse Counseling

AP Photo / Mark Lennihan

We went through the normal routine. Virtually every time we have this conversation, I know the identity of the non-routine payment. And that's the end of it. But this time I didn't. So I checked with our General Counsel. No dice. Associate publisher? Nope. None of us have ever heard of Julian Toynbee.

It's also an odd some sum of money. Real money, even for a company that costs $2 million+ to run each year. Yet way too much money for a a 'vampire' fraudster to think no one would notice and hit us up for a small payment each month. And not nearly enough money if you're trying to score with a single phony check.

Then the mystery deepens. A google search by our General Counsel (who doubles as my wife), reveals that Julian is a psychologist in mid-town Manhattan specializing in substance abuse treatment for professionals and c-suite executives.

At this point I'm thinking, if someone on staff is in trouble, I want to help. But this is so not the way to go about it.

Happily it turns out no one on staff is under treatment with Julian. Of if they are, they didn't try to pay him from one of our corporate checking accounts. Our accountant finally figured it out.

As you know, the signature line on a check is just above the bank account numeric codes in that weird computerese font. When the person who wrote the check signed it check, she swiped down with an ornate opening 'L' which crossed over the bank account number. That seems to have left the Citibank mainframe computer thinking the draw was on TPM rather than the recipient of Julian's services. But even so, in the last four digits, we have only two in common with the real account.

We're getting this worked out and getting our two grand back. I know no computer system is foolproof. But I must admit that it has shaken some of my confidence in computerized banking.