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Amy Nickson On 28th Jun,17
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Avoid utility scam: Don't let someone use your money

Recently, a nerve wrenching utility scam has occurred with a small non-profit business owner. The victim, Fay Givens, the executive director of American Indian Services in Lincoln Park, has warned all small business owners after the incident.

She said that every small business owners should check their bank accounts regularly.

You never know, someone can do the unauthorized activities with your account.

Fay Givens has said that, to avoid utility scam "Be very, very vigilant".

On 22nd May and 23rd May, she found that 3 electronic payments of $449, $415.03, and $1,407 went out on one by one. Though all the payments went to DTE Energy, yet no bills were paid from that account.

Givens said, "When this shows up, you know it's fraud".

According to Frank McKenna, chief fraud strategist of PointPredictive, utility scam is now rising fast and becoming a serious concern.

He said, these days, due to the new end technology, the banking industry is moving toward a faster ACH payment system.

Some scam artists are taking advantage of the technology to get the money.

He quoted "The faster they can get their money, the faster they can get out and be anonymous."

How does a utility scam occur?

Fay Givens said, if the routing number or account number end up in the wrong hand, this type of scam can occur.

Fay Givens said, in her case, maybe the scammer got the routing number and account number of her business from the bank check, which was used to pay other bills. After that, the scammer used the bank account information to steal money out of the account to pay any bill.

She quoted that, "If you're not vigilant about these things, all of a sudden you're paying someone's bills for months on end. It's just a real scam".

When Fay Givens came to know that a scam activity has occurred with her business account, she filed affidavits with her bank stating that the payments were unauthorized. Thus, she was able to avoid money loss.

As per the experts, once you click on fraudulent attachments or websites, malware gets installed on your computer.

That malware contains a keylogger that can harvest your bank account login information.

After getting your bank information, the scammers create a fake account or directly sucks money as a legitimate user.

How to avoid utility scam

These kind of new scams are rising fast. But the million dollar question is how can we avoid it?

Mary Ann Miller, senior director and fraud executive adviser for NICE Actimize, said, consumers should take care of their personal information.

Consumers need to check their statements to identify errors.

There can be several back office errors. This way, routing numbers and account numbers can be misplaced.

For people, who are the owner of small businesses, should restrict online activity to one highly secure computer system to avoid Email and web browsing related scams.

She advised that small business owners should avoid having one employee dealing with all the payment-related task. The risk of fraud increases relatively more if the responsibility is given to just one person to carry out all these tasks.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched a website to avoid scams and cyber security issues.

Most of the business owners can get the cyber safety information from this website.
Utilities across the country, including DTE Energy, warned all the small business owners not to disclose their personal information over the phone.

Lastly, I would suggest that not only the small business owners, but any layman should report the unauthorized activities immediately to the respective bank to avoid monetary loss.

Close the account that got stolen; open a new one to start fresh.

Last Updated on: Wed, 28 Jun 2017

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