Deposit checks electronically? Here are some mobile banking cautions

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT
Posted July 05, 2015, at 12:08 p.m.

Today we’ll learn about the term “remote deposit capture.”

You might hear it also called mobile remote deposit capture. In a nutshell, it’s the ability to deposit a check electronically.

Convenient, right? Yes, until something goes wrong. When it does, you have the major role in spotting the problem and getting it corrected.

What could go wrong is that a check can be deposited more than once, either by error or with the intent to defraud. Credit Union Times wrote in June 2013 that a man from Louisville, Kentucky, managed to deposit 32 Western Union money orders, which he also cashed out at a Kroger. Police reports say the man doubled his money in the process, getting away with more than $12,000.

In traditional deposits, the financial institution retains the “deposit instrument.” In remote deposit capture transactions, it stays with the depositor, making a second deposit possible. Crooks may feel safer in trying this kind of fraud; instead of walking into a bank or credit union with evidence in hand, they’re pulling their scam remotely.

It’s estimated that two-thirds of all financial institutions in Maine offer customers the option of remote deposit capture; snap a picture of the check with your cellphone and deposit it.

People at Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions say they have not received complaints or questions about remote deposit capture via its consumer complaint line (800-965-5235). Consumers also may write to the Bureau’s Consumer Outreach Program, 36 State House Station, Augusta ME 04333-0036.

An interagency body called the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council has written what it calls a guidance document for financial institutions. It says duplicate presentment at a bank or credit union is a double-edged sword: a business process and a fraud risk. The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council says insider fraud is a greater risk “because the financial institution typically does not perform background checks on its customers’ employees who may have access to physical deposit items or electronic files.” It also says customer and staff access to nonpublic personal information embedded in deposit items could also increase the risk of identity theft.

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council says management of financial institutions and customers need to be diligent to prevent abuse of remote deposit capture. Managers and customers should be on the same page as their computer technologies evolve. To reduce the risk of double deposits, deposit items should be “endorsed, franked or otherwise noted as already processed.” It says institutions also might want to buy insurance against such happenings, if coverage is available and affordable.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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