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Watch Your Bank Account - the ACH Penny-Deposit Scam


This Air Force News article describes the case of an Airman who was a victim of a crime that used ACH transfers. The criminals used software to execute one-cent deposits into random account numbers. If the one-cent deposit clears, they know they have a valid account, and then they proceed to make withdrawals. In the case of the Airman, he had over $600 withdrawn from his account.

The good news is that once the Airman contacted the bank manager, they refunded him the stolen funds. However, the Airman wasted a lot of time trying to track down who made the ACH withdrawals. As you would suspect the criminals were able to make the transactions look like they were from a legitimate business. When the Airman finally tracked down that business, he found out that he was not alone. The business had received about 100 calls from other victims.

So the best way to protect yourself is to check your accounts at least once a month. Avoiding online banking won't help since brick-and-mortar bank accounts are no different than online accounts in that they can have the same ACH transfers applied to them.

Regulations require banks to reimburse you for fradulent transactions if you report them in time. So the banks are the ones that have the most to lose, and perhaps that's why many have set up blocks against ACH withdrawals initiated from the outside. Banks that I know of which do this include ING Direct, E-LOAN and recently Emigrant Direct.

A few years ago I had a mysterious two-cent deposit to my credit union money market account. It was labeled as if my insurance company, Humana, had made the deposit. The credit union couldn't provide any more info, and my attempts to track down the source at Humana proved to be a waste of time. Luckily, there were never any unauthorize ACH withdrawals. I ended up closing this account a few months later.

ACH Overview

For those not familiar with ACH it stands for Automated Clearing House and is used to make electronic deposits and withdrawals from bank accounts. Direct Deposit is one example of an ACH deposit. ACH withdrawals are often done to pay for bills. Many online banks allow customers to initiate ACH transfers to and from their accounts at other banks. For more info on ACH, please see this Wikipedia ACH reference.
  |     |   Comment #1
It happened to me with a legitimate company, Zecco. They withdrew two small amounts from my bank account without making corresponding deposits.
It took me long time for my bank to reverse the charges.
Zecco has not yet admitted their mistake,
  |     |   Comment #2
That's an interesting scam. It's amazing what methods the scammers use to steal our hard earned money.
  |     |   Comment #3
This is why I like E-loan. You can only withdraw fund from their website and I hope they don't change this...
  |     |   Comment #4
I have to take this whole story with a big grain of salt. ACH transactions have to be made through a bank. If someone is approved to initiate ACH credits and debits through their bank and tries every possible account number at another bank, they are going to have hundreds or thousands of bounced deposits. If that doesn't set off security warnings at the originating bank, then there is something seriously wrong.
  |     |   Comment #5
I also have some doubts about this scam. Doesn't the originator of the ACH credit or deposit have to know the account AS WELL as the name on the destination account? They can't just "cold call" account numbers and request withdrawals, can they? This doesn't sound right.
  |     |   Comment #16
I don't know exactly how it works but a company that sub contracted me to do some work only needed my routing & accoun # to transfer my payment. The bank deposited 0.01 to test the account was god and the next business day the total
  |     |   Comment #17
Wait until they do it in reverse
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #6
Looks like they're working on new rules in ACH processing which may help reduce fraud. See this Bank Tech news article for more info.

There also has been other abuses of ACH. The article mentions telemarketers who do improper telephone-based authorizations.
  |     |   Comment #7
when you write someone a personal check, they automatically get your ABA and checking account number.

Doesn't that expose everyone writing a check to ACH fraud?
  |     |   Comment #8
mk makes a great point. with checks, your name and address is on it as well. sigh.. it's kind of scary.
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #9
Just found a report from Kentucky's Attorney General about ACH fraud here.

Most of the fraud cases, the victims gave their account numbers, but in a some cases "the bank account numbers were simply obtained and debited without even contacting the victim."

Looks like I'll have to do more investigations into ACH and what protections are in place. As has been mentioned, with checks listing all of the account details, it seems this would make it easy for criminals to access your account. It's probably best to limit check payments to only those who you trust.
  |     |   Comment #11
BEWARE! Moldova Comp. deposited $0.01 cent into our checking on April 22nd, 2011 as well. It is a bogus company that once accesses your account can somehow withdraw from there as well. I do not know how it is possible for them to do this, but our bank fraud department suggested an account number change. A BIG headache. Why can't Banks protect their customers from fraud like this. Shame on them.
  |     |   Comment #12
Moldova comp has deposited .01 into my checking account as well. on 4/22/2011. I called my bank, chase, they basicly said they couldn't do anything UNTIL these freaks ripped me off!! They would not block access to my account from this "company". They gave me a trace # and a phone number to TD bank. I called them, they then gave me a number to somewhere else..(305)308-4819, and naturally..it went NOWHERE (a voicemail that has not been set up). Since I have bills scheduled to come out of my chase account in the next few days, I can't just close it..so I guess I just sit and wait to be ripped off. I'm so mad. I can't believe we aren't any better protected than this.
  |     |   Comment #13
I too received a 0.01 deposit on 4/22/2011 from Moldova Comp.  Contacted bank to discuss.  I think I will just open a new account with them and transfer funds.
  |     |   Comment #14
This happened to me also. Moldova Comp withdrew .01 on 10/26, I didn't know what it was and didn't think much of it. Then on 11/09 they withdrew $29.95, luckily the bank had a ref/check# that I could see online. It had a phone number I called and they are reimbursing the money. I can't believe people can just access my bank account without authorization.


  |     |   Comment #15
Had the same happen to me. I was charged $29.95, it looked like it was a check over the phone transaction with my name but someone elses address on the check, I called the 800 number and was told it was a sub for an "Adult Website". They assured me I would get the $29.95 credited back to my account. Tonight there is a .01 deposit pending from Moldova Comp, I'm hoping that's going to be my $29.95 credit.
  |     |   Comment #18
I just had a company withdraw $0.01 from my account. It is a company I have never done business with nor would I ever (what purpose do I have to purchase caps?). It was withdrawn from my business checking account which is only ever used for business purchases. This happened about 8 months ago as well from another company I cannot remember the name but I had to cancel my card and get a new one as someone has my card information in which I am very secure about when and where I use it - I only ever use it on Amazon and my financial services such as the cable bill, water bill, etc. We have no viruses and/or Trojan software on our company computers and I never let anyone use my business debit card. It's very strange to me.

This is the company that hit me up for $0.01 this morning:
  |     |   Comment #19
That's the problem, e.g. I see on penfed site a menu item on disputing same. But what is the basis to challenge same when you never (voluntarily) agreed to that process? Yet most DA people use e-banking! I keep bus accounts with a low balance (the one cent withdrawal was a test...like what credit card thiefs do). I also do not have overdraft "protection"...let it bounce!
Mr. Mint
  |     |   Comment #20
Marcus is also reversing ACH withdraws initiated from the outside. They demanded I show proof of account ownership, not of the target account but the source of the funds transferred to Marcus to open the account. I thought this was rather odd and unnecessary. Communication was very poor. You best bet is to initiate ACH transfers at the facility where they reside.
  |     |   Comment #21
I have turned close to 20 phone numbers over for investigation and they all were scams in the last 2 weeks
  |     |   Comment #22
This same thing happen to me. I had a $.01 credit in May. Later on in May I had $36.95 ach withdrawal. I did not have a charge in June, but another $36.95 charge in July. I finally got my money reimbursed from CLDBLK, but it took a lot of trouble. This scam is true. I had to change my bank account.
  |     |   Comment #23
But is there any way to stop any/all ach transfers w/o your prior approval. Seems absurd that one can obtain all the necessary info from one check (and cooperation from friendly bank)

Thus, after your bank corrected the problem, what did they do to remedy it in future? Report to regulators, cease doing business with cooperating bank, report to fbi, etc? And why would anyone (you) continue to do business with them if they had inadequate controls in place and nothing to indicate corrective action in the future?
  |     |   Comment #24
Just curious as to how quick you received your refund back from CLDBLK as a similar situation occurred with me ($.01 credit in April followed by monthly charges of #36.95, except for June). I just got off the phone with a "Steven" from the customer service number that I found on my bank statement. The whole thing felt fishy so I'm apprehensive as to whether or not I'll actually get the refund and future charges will be halted. Thanks.
  |     |   Comment #27
I Just caught a .01 withdraw and reverse transaction by accident on my Wells Fargo online banking from a company I had no dealings with. Moments later, Wells Fargo mysteriously erases it from the "pending transactions" section and I never saw it again. WF never notified or alerted me of this. So I called customer service about this and where of no help to me whatsoever. It's almost like they knew it happened but never told me.
  |     |   Comment #28
The .01 withdrawal was probably to start a new surreptitious Wells Fargo account somewhere that has monthly fees of some kind. The WF reimbursement of the .01 was because they know they'll make a lot more on those fees than the .01.
  |     |   Comment #29
Joe change accounts, passwords, etc

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