Are You Being Robbed As You Read This?

If not yet, you soon may be 

And… you don’t have to use a computer or a credit card to be a victim of the silent thieves

All you need to be a target is a checking account

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 CHECKING ACCOUNT—Electronic Debits

Electronic debits to your checking account are done more often than you think. This is the procedure used if you have authorized bill paying directly from your checking account.  In addition, many stores now simply scan your check and hand it back to you.

Frequently, you don’t have to present a check if you have the bank routing and account numbers from the check. 

  • For example, one person inadvertently failed to pay her Verizon bill. She called Verizon and offered to send a check by overnight mail. Verizon told her that if she would just provide the bank routing number and her bank account number they would simply debit her checking account electronically.
  • In another case, an individual paid for a purchase with a check that bounced due to insufficient funds caused by a late transfer of funds into her checking account.  Embarrassed, she went to the store, apologized, and took out her checkbook to write another check. The clerk told her not to bother. Instead, the clerk used the bank routing number and her account number from her check and electronically debited the account.

However, the “convenience” of electronic debits presents a significant risk of theft if someone secures this information and uses it to steal your money.

Consider this story from Novato, California

A man in Novato recently wrote a check for $134 to the California DMV for a license renewal.  Somewhere along the way, as the check was being processed, someone lifted the check number, bank routing number and checking account number from the DMV check.  They used this information to make a purchase at the Wal Mart in San Pablo totaling $591.99, which was debited to the Novato checking account.

Needless to say, the owner of the checking account had to go through the hassle of working with his bank to close the account and set up a new one. In addition, the fraudulent Wal Mart purchase was reversed.  Most important, he also called the Novato Police who sent an officer to take a full report.

  • The officer also secured the original check and electronic debit information from the bank. 
  • In addition, the Novato Police also secured permission to submit the theft information to the FBI, which maintains a database of identity theft crimes.

POLICE REPORT

In the case of checking account fraud or credit card fraud, it is important to report it to your local police. 

Some departments will send an officer to your home or business. Other departments will only take a report at the station. Frankly, some police departments are not enthusiastic about taking reports of identity theft or fraud. The Novato Police appear to take it seriously.

ADDITIONAL TIPS

  1. Monitor your credit card bills and bank statements closely. If there are any suspicious charges or debits, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. Don’t dismiss small debits or charges such as a $1 charge because someone may be testing to see if you are paying attention.
  2. If you get a call from someone purporting to be from your credit card company or bank, politely tell them that you will call back. Then use a number you know to be correct.
  3. Beware of e-mail “phishing” scams– “In a phishing scam, a consumer typically receives a spam e-mail message that looks like it was sent from a respected organization such as a bank. Those messages often ask consumers to click on a link to update account information or to view special promotions. When the consumer clicks the link, he is redirected to a fake Web site that requests personal information like user name, passwords, or credit-card numbers that are then collected to carry out identity theft.” BusinessWeek http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/apr2009/tc20090413_894347.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily.html

LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • How to report credit card fraud http://www.ehow.com/how_2071562_report-credit-card-fraud.html
  • If the police are reluctant to take your report, ask to file a “Miscellaneous Incident” report, or try another jurisdiction, like your state police. You also can check with your state Attorney General’s office to find out if state law requires the police to take reports for identity theft. When you go to your local police department to file your report, bring a printed copy of your FTC ID Theft Complaint form, your cover letter, and your supporting documentation. The cover letter explains why a police report and an ID Theft Complaint are so important to victims. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/defend.html
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5 thoughts on “Are You Being Robbed As You Read This?

  1. Frank Thanks for the great blog, “are you being robbed while you read this”. It gave me pause, as I had always figured I was most safe by using my checking account and using paper checks filled out by me using indelible ink that can’t be washed. But now, I realize that with the advent of the electronic debit, paper checks are really less safe than on line banking. Or so it seems. I am going to look into on line banking right away.

  2. Pingback: Can You Be Robbed By A Bank? – Petaluma Spectator - Petaluma 360 - Petaluma, CA - Archive

  3. Just in case anyone needs to fill out a ID Theft Complaint and Affidavit form, I found a blank form here http://goo.gl/UZ1cH1. This site PDFfiller also has some tutorials how to fill it out and a few related forms that you might find useful.

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