Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Checking Account Numbers
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

Consumers across the country are complaining about unauthorized automatic debits (withdrawals) from their checking accounts. If a telemarketer or an internet website asks for your checking account number or other printed information on your check, do not provide that information unless you initiated the call or contact, or are already familiar with the company.

How the scam works
You may either receive a postcard, a telephone call or an email saying you have won a free prize or can qualify for a major credit card, regardless of past credit problems. If you acknowledge the offer, you may be subjected to a sales pitch, during which you may be asked to provide the numbers at the bottom of your check. You may not be told why this information is needed or you may be told the information will help ensure you qualify for the offer.

Once your checking account information has been provided, it is put on a "demand draft" and sent to the bank for payment. The draft contains your name, account number and amount and does not require your signature. When your bank receives the draft, the stated amount is withdrawn from your account and paid to the scammer’s bank. You may not realize this has occurred until you receive your next bank statement.

How to protect yourself

  • Do not give your checking account number over the phone in response to solicitations from unknown people.
  • 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.
You may contact your local Better Business Bureau or you may file a complaint with the FTC by writing to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580. You may also 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.