Checking Account Tips

How to Protect Yourself:


Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

Fraudulent telemarketers have found another way to steal your money. Consumers across the country are complaining about unauthorized automatic debits (withdrawals) from their checking accounts. Beware! If a caller asks for your checking account number or other printed information on your check, do as you would with your credit card - do not give out checking account information over the phone unless you initiate the call or are familiar with the company.


How the Scam Works

You either receive a postcard or a telephone call saying you have won a free prize or can qualify for a major credit card, regardless of past credit problems. If you respond to the offer, often times the telemarketer asks you right away, "Do you have a checking account?" If you say "yes," the telemarketer will explain the offer. If you say "No," they may tell you that you are ineligible for the offer. If the telemarketer goes on to explain the offer, usually it sounds too good to pass up. Near the end of the sales pitch, the telemarketer will craftily ask you to read the numbers at the bottom of your check. Sometimes they may not tell you why this information is needed. Other times, they may tell you that the information will help to ensure that you qualify for the offer. Once the telemarketer has your checking account information, it is put on a "demand draft" and sent to the bank for payment. The draft contains your name, account number, and the amount, but does not require your signature. When your bank receives the draft, the stated amount is withdrawn from your account and paid to the telemarketer's bank. You may not know that this has occurred until you receive your next bank statement.

How to Protect Yourself

These scams involve fraud which is hard to detect and could expose you to large financial losses. The following suggestions may help you avoid becoming a victim:
  • Do not give your checking account number over the phone in response to solicitations from unknown people.
  • If anyone asks for your checking account number, ask them why they need it.
  • Beware of offers that sound too good to be true, especially offers that require your checking account number. Ask to review the company's offer in writing before you agree to a purchase.
What to Do if You are a Victim

If a telemarketer has issued a draft against your checking account without your knowledge or permission, or the amount is more than you authorized, contact your bank immediately. Depending on the timing and the circumstances, you may be able to get your money back.

To File a Complaint.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may be contacted in the event that you desire to file a complaint against a particular company, or if you want to know if other complaints have been filed against a particular company. They can be reached at either (850) 488-2221 or (800) 435- 7352. You may also contact your local Better Business Bureau. You also may file a complaint with the FTC by writing to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580. You also can contact the National Fraud Information Center at 1- 800-876-7060. If the company is out-of-state, you may wish to call the appropriate agencies and authorities in the state where the company maintains its headquarters.

Additional Information

The FTC publishes various free brochures which explain fraudulent sales practices that often occur over the phone. To obtain a copy of BestSellers - a complete listing of all consumer and business education publications from the FTC - write to: Public Reference, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580, (202) 326-2222 or TDD, (202) 326-2502.

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