Online fraudsters in the US have hit upon a new scam which appears to target validation weaknesses in the private automated clearinghouse system to defraud account holders.
Details of the scam have been published by Air Force Link, the Internet news service of the US Air Force, which tells of an investigation that was launched after a Colorado airman found that his account had been wrongly debited with payments of up to $600.
The withdrawals appeared to have been made by an outfit called Equity First, but the toll-free number listed for company was out of service. The airman looked up the name on the Internet and came across a genuine company called Equity First Mortgage in North Carolina. An employee at the firm told the airman that the company had been fielding similar calls from dozens of other people who had all noticed unexplained withdrawals on their accounts.
It appears that the scammers had been pinging account numbers across the ACH until they hit an active acount, into which they then deposited a single payment of one cent, and authorised a withdrawal.
The automated clearinghouse is used by banks to process large volumes of payroll, credit and debit card transactions, but it also facilitates direct payment of consumer bills such as mortgages, loans and utility bills, as well as business-to-business and federal, state and local tax payments.