Recently customers and even people who aren’t customers of Columbia Gas of Ohio have been receiving letters from scammers posing as Columbia Gas of Ohio with counterfeit checks. The letters tell the targeted victims to deposit the check and then email the scammer posing as the gas company a copy of the deposit slip in order to confirm that the free money has been deposited. Of course no company is giving away free money to anyone. The method behind the madness of this scam is that if you deposit the check (which of course will bounce) and send the deposit slip to the scammer, you will have provided the scammer with your bank account number and your bank’s routing number.
Unfortunately, once the scammer has your bank account number and the routing number for your bank which is used for wire transfers, they are able to use that information to make purchases where money is wired from your account and the goods purchased are sent to the scammer who then can sell the goods thereby laundering the proceeds of the scam. Other scammers will create counterfeit checks using this information and make checks payable to themselves. Some scammers will even use your banking information to set up recurring payments such as for utilities.
Never give your bank account information to anyone or any company that you have not thoroughly researched to make sure that they are legitimate. In fact, if you are a bit paranoid, like me (remembering even paranoids have enemies) you can avoid the problem altogether by not providing your bank account information to anyone and have payments sent to you by a check.
If, however, you do become a victim of this type of scam where a scammer has your bank account information, freeze your accounts immediately and notify the police and the fraud department of your bank. Change your online banking password and make sure you are using dual factor authentication as well. Fortunately, if you notify your bank within sixty days of receiving your monthly statement indicating that your bank account has been accessed you are not liable for the money taken from your account.
The good news is that for this type of wiring of funds fraud, you are not liable for the money withdrawn from your account if you notify the bank within 60 days of when you receive your monthly statement. Frankly you should notify your bank within 60 seconds of receiving your monthly statement indicating the crime. Banks are required to investigate the crime promptly and replace the money into your account within one business day of determining that the loss of funds from your account was fraudulent.
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