Usually, when I pay with a check, I write it out and sign it, or I direct my bank to send it on my behalf. But what if a check is drawn on my account but I didn’t write it, sign it, or tell my bank to send it? It can happen if someone has your bank account number: they can use your number to create a check that takes money out of your account. Now, if you’d already agreed to the charges, there’s no problem. But what if you didn’t? That means this check is part of a scam – which is what the FTC says happened in a case announced today.
The FTC sued several companies and individuals for allegedly taking millions of dollars out of people’s accounts using remotely created checks – without the account owners’ authorization. The defendants had websites and made telemarketing calls that offered short-term loans and cash advances to people with bad credit. To get access to that money, people gave their bank account information. But the FTC says the defendants actually signed people up for online discount membership clubs – and charged for them. People had not agreed to that, and it only made their situations worse. When people complained to the company, the FTC says the defendants lied to confuse people into thinking they had, in fact, approved those charges.
Here are three things you can do to outsmart scammers.
- Stop before you put your account information in a website. Ask yourself: who, exactly, am I dealing with? Can I trust them? What will they do with my information? Dishonest people may use your bank or credit card information to take your money, or sell your information to others who’ll do the same.
- Review your bank account and credit card statements carefully. Check for charges you don’t recognize, remember agreeing to, or that you didn’t authorize – especially if you recently applied for a loan or credit.
- Tell your bank or credit card company immediately if you see a check or charge you don’t recognize. If the unauthorized charge is part of a scam, telling your bank and the FTC might help stop the scammers.