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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

91 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Wonderland
August 17, 2017
I bought A junk flooded car and it broke down on me, not only did the crooked dealer take my money with me filling complaint after complaint with no avail
LJ Allen
August 17, 2017
I recently contact my credit union regarding unauthorized and unidentified charges from my account. I was told that since the charges had been automatically debited from account since June, unaware to me, I had to contact the company to dispute the charges before my credit union would investigate. I have been calling the 800 number and never have been able to get anyone on the phone. What can I do next ?
ctressler
August 17, 2017

In reply to by LJ Allen

If the company has a website, check to see if they have an email address or online form you can fill out to make contact.

Chari
August 17, 2017
I wrote about what to do (above). I was scammed by browsing unknown stores on the internet. Somehow my computer was infected with ransomware or virus. My screen and computer froze. It has what techs call, "blue screen of death." Watch out for cookies and other things you don't recognize or initiate .
Polly01
September 13, 2017

In reply to by Chari

The same happened to me. Computer and tablet froze. And a sudden notice that I was hacked. A company Softwarient Solutions in Philadelphia called me saying they were security for Amazon. They wanted me to buy their security software and they would restore all. Well, they got $120 from me I was very lucky there was nothing important on the machines. How are they able to freeze a computer? was very young on Friday and $60 on Sun operating at least

Isabei1946
August 21, 2017
My nane is Wilson Martinez. On 6/13/17 and 8/13/17 a debit charge for $10.79 was posted on my bank statement, payable to neflex los gatos caus.I have never made any transaction with this company,never heard of them.What can be done? It's possible that they strick again.Please help me ,I will waiting for your reply.
ctressler
August 21, 2017

In reply to by Isabei1946

Please contact your bank, explain the situation, and ask them what they can do to help.

Virginia
August 21, 2017
I was texted by "Chase" fraud alerts that my Credit Card ending xxxx transferred $3325.00 did I authorize this. I texted back no. I was then told this was a different response than previously given and to call 800-432-3117. I called Chase's real number from back of my card and was told Chase doesn't have this as a contact number.
rusty
August 21, 2017
thanks for the info. With telemarketing fraud I always wonder how did they get my phone number . I think when US Companies outsource and when you call them some one in India the country with the most outsourcing someone is passing on our phone numbers to the crooks
Chaplain Jamillah
August 27, 2017
Thank You for this Information. It's very helpful and important. I'm always weary sharing on line my account or cards. I avoid it as much as possible. But when you got to pay a ticket on line DOF and other important sites you need to be careful doing so. People working at these places are scammers too. Thanks again!
Annoyed
August 29, 2017
Banks have e-mailed me messages that I have bank accounts I don't have and that their have been too many log-in attempts for accounts I don't have as well as various business contact attempts such as Apple Computers stating the same. I have been receiving messages from unknowns of anywhere and not even addressed to my e-mail account in my inbox. I have also been e-mailed messages stating payment for purchases with e-bay and amazon that I have never made. Stop the nonsense or whatever goes. Get serious so this is the end of having to report wasting time.2017 MST
NMRK
September 04, 2017
Wrinkle Creams - Biggest scams ever. The free samples aren't free. If you don't see the "CONTRACT" at the end of their junk advertising where it says you must cancel in bla bla bla-- you don't cancel and the wrinkle cream comes without your authorization --took $500 from me before I found out it was happening. CROOKS. Bella Crooks.
527
October 02, 2017
Please indicate if Barclays of Delaware has attorneys who are debt collectors, from my research it appears that Barclays is located in England, and got the contract from Bank of America frequent flyer amenity card for US Airways due to a merger and US Airways is not longer in business. Barclays is not a US bank and does not have any banks in the US at all. It appears that the prior credit card, that I had more than 20 years and always had good-great credit was sold to Barclays, and Bank of America does not even show on my credit report? Was this a scam to defraud American citizens by selling assets of credit card to a bank that was not US based? I filed with CFPB, Consumer Financial Protection, and Barclays debt collectors apparently do not have any jurisdiction in the US Courts. I tried to pay my account on time by phone, received an off-shore representative, who never attempted to take the funds even though they had my permission. When viewing my credit report the attorney who was acting as a debt collector, never appeared in court, and accessed my credit report three times prior to filing the case. I understand that now I should also contact the state based agency that oversees this action in terms of following a state law related to debt collection. HELP! Please also explain if banks located in another country, such as Barclays and BMO (Bank of Montreal) they bought assets of a US bank, and added Harris to their name is really harmful to US Citizens credit reporting, and is a "goal" of the merger to cause harm to the citizens of this country? There are tens of thousands harmed by the actions of the attorney who has filed these cases, and cluelessness by most court commissioners or circuit court judges. Watch John Oliver on You Tube or other media,the average debt collector spends 4 minutes with the file, files a case, and enriches them or the firm they work for. We need guidance and protection for situations like this! I filed with various federal agencies, including the FTC and CFPB and have done a lot of research.
yippyyippyyaya…
December 04, 2017
Amazon scammed for for second time.Thank god I caught unauthorized charged right away. I will NEVER do business w/ them again.
weehavenDon't …
December 08, 2017
I purchased for $4.95 shipping charges a diet support pills then my charge bill came and i was charged for 2 sets of pills in the amount of$360. When I called the company they said I did not cancel in14 days, it was 16 days and theyhave refused to cancel charges and my credit card compaint said that because I gave them my card number for the samples I am responsible for all the charges. This is a scam, I was never told I only had 14 days to cancel. now I am stuck what else can I do ? /
BevieO
December 12, 2017
I am getting emails from companies I don't know and don't do business with telling me that I am getting a service that I never had renewing my dues/service and to click on a link to cancel if it is not me. I hesitate to click link as I don't know what it will sign on/into or how this scam works. I have 3 different emails, 2 from the same people. What should I do?
FTC Staff
December 12, 2017

In reply to by BevieO

The emails could be part of a phishing scam. Phishing scammers make it seem like you need to act quickly or something bad will happen. They might say your account will be frozen, you’ll fail to get a refund.

Don't click on links, or download programs sent by strangers. If you open a file from someone you don’t know, you could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information you type. You can delete the unwanted messages.

Cynthia
February 27, 2018
What if the crook ,IS THE BANK!?
FTC Staff
February 28, 2018

In reply to by Cynthia

You could contact your state bank regulator or a federal banking regulator.

gaylemyers162
April 27, 2018

I am having a problem with the IRS. I keep getting notices that while the IRS is working on my account, the IRS needs an additional 60 days to send me a response on what action the IRS is taking on my account. I believe this is a scam so that the IRS steals my Federal Income Tax monies I am owed ($2,298.00). I only received $972.64. This is unacceptable! I have a HUGE PAPER TRAIL in regards to this matter. Thank you for listening.

Sepheara
February 07, 2019
I have a contract for a chair I was getting for my father for Father's Day which o intended on paying cash price but ended up on medical leave. This was June 2017 and the first payment July 6 of 71.28 all fees included. The contract for 18 months should have ended Dec 2018. Ive always paid never behind. They not only charged my card for 87.00 in Dec which was supposed to be 76 because of a 5 late fee. Then this month they took it upon theirself to charge another 87.00 without my permission and without an automatic bill pay option. They kept my card info from when I have used the card for previous payments. Im furious because they owe me money from overcharging me throughout the contract. Is that illegal and fraudulent practices?
Jarvis
May 05, 2019
In addition to calling the bank, should call the merchant?
Rit Roy Sterns
June 04, 2019
my deceased wife got a credit card without my nowing now see is deceased and citi sent me dispute letter that i had nothing to do with confused what do i do
FTC Staff
June 05, 2019

In reply to by Rit Roy Sterns

The FTC has an article about the debts of deceased relatives.

Usually, family members don't have to use their own money to pay a deceased relative's debts. The FTC article says the estate of the deceased person owes the debt, and if there isn't enough money in the estate, the debt might not get paid.

A person might be responsible for the debt of a deceased relative if they co-signed on an obligation, or they live in a community property state, or for other reasons. If you aren't sure if you need to pay a debt, you could talk with a lawyer. Follow this link to find a list of legal aid lawyers. This list of state Bar Associations  also has lists of lawyers.

PHINKLEY43
September 26, 2019
THEY SEND SEND ANY OF MY PRODUCT WHICH I PAID FOR AND THE AND AN INVALID TELEPHONE NUMBER
Ruthmart
October 10, 2019
I paid only shipping and handling for a trial product I saw online. After a few days I was allergic to it. I tried calling the phone number that supplied to tell them I didn't like the product but the phone number they gave me it didn't work. Weeks later they took out $200 from my bank account.
ywgdebit
November 18, 2019
Recently had a suspicious pre-authorized transaction on my chequing account that I did not authorized. The online bank rep that I was speaking to told me they can’t help me and that I have to go directly to the branch. How can’t they not tracked these transactions.
Jackssl2
February 05, 2020
Thank you will call my bank
Norcokat1
July 03, 2020
There has been 50.00 dollars out of my account since April 1st. This I did not authorize. I have 2 more from others that happened since March 30, 2020.
Concerned Citizen 1
November 22, 2020
I have this charge on my bank statement. I called my bank and they don't know who it is. I ordered new cards but wanted to let you know it looks suspicious. The charge is from OPS*470LN-FALMOUTH
JOSLATE
December 12, 2020
In the last 2 months I have had 2 charges for 98.95 from BIOBALFORS. Never ordered anything from them do not know who they are. SCAMMERS
Joe Schmuckatelli
December 27, 2020

In reply to by JOSLATE

I just had the same charge for the same amount. This is a scam.
Antisoci1976
February 19, 2021
I have a semi similar issue. A Billpay transaction was initiated and paid from my checking account but it was unauthorized. Not done by myself. I have told the bank many times I did not authorize this transaction and they insist I did. Any information on how to positively deal with would be greatly appreciated.
Leelampton
February 22, 2021
I’m a victim to about £100 atleast even after I told the fraud department money has continued to go out last night another £27 went I don’t no what to do next
Renee
March 19, 2021
Has anyone had a unauthorized charge come out of their chqs account that says 'APE tickets_V' and know who they are? I found a pre sale ticket website called 'another planet entertainment' or 'APE processors' but im not sure. They took money out of my account a few times. I am getting a new bank card but still wondering what that was. And try get my money back.
Timops
June 08, 2021

In reply to by Renee

Hi, I have an a unauthorized charge on my cqs account that says 'APE Tickets\Nairobi\ KE' and I've found a website name APE Tickets. I don't know how they have my credit card.
Drdlindsey
April 03, 2021
Have been charged by cardmember services for something I did not charge.
Bar-Beware
September 02, 2021
This appears to have been a scam to attempt to access my computer remotely , after Pay Pal had terminated my account. Charging a closed account is very clever, but I'm not sure that Pay Pal did this, or some other scammer.
Reds
September 28, 2021
I have a charge of $91.30 on my checking account. Account notes charge is fir Public Service. Bank has no further identification on the charge. To have the bank investigate my account will be closed. I have had this checking for over 30 years and it is attached to bills and internet sellers. I am furious my bank is no further help! What do I do ?
Mpp31
October 22, 2021
I got a call from an agent called Andile from MaxLaw saying they want to clear my credit score and increase it. I didn't authorise anything but was surprised when i got a message from capitec saying Max Law will deduct R410 from my account for 2 months .. i tried calling back and trying to cancel but i cant. Please help me... can i cancel transaction to be done from my bank before month end