Scammers are consistently upping their game, and they’ve recently pulled out an old trick: the micro-deposit scam. Unfortunately, too many people have already fallen victim, and we don’t want anyone else getting caught in the trap. To that end, we’ve compiled this guide on micro-deposit scams, how they play out and what you can do if you are a target.
What is a micro-deposit?
Before we can explore the actual scam, it’s essential to understand how a micro-deposit works.
Micro-deposits are small sums of money that are transferred online from one financial account to another. Their purpose is to verify if the account on the receiving end is the account the sender intended to reach. Micro-deposits are generally less than $1 and can be as small as $0.02. They are also typically deposited in pairs; within one to three business days of linking accounts, two micro-deposits should appear in your account.
As mentioned, micro-deposits verify account ownership. For example, if you’d like to link your checking account with an investment account, the investment brokerage firm will want to verify it’s sending your dividends to the correct account. Before sending any of your investment earnings, it’ll do a test run by sending a pair of micro-deposits to your checking account. They’ll notify you that the firm has sent these deposits and asked to verify the deposit amount by logging into your newly linked account. Once you’ve completed this step, the brokerage account will withdraw the small amount of money sent through the micro-deposits and proceed with regular deposits of investment dividends, as planned.
How the micro-deposit scam plays out
In this scam, crooks will link brokerage accounts with strings of random numbers, hoping to hit a valid account. When a deposit is verified from an account, they will use additional information about the account holder to withdraw funds from this account as they please.
What to do if you are a target
Micro-deposits are small enough to fly under the radar, and you may unknowingly verify one with an uninformed click. Here’s what to do if you’ve received a micro-deposit from an unknown source:
- Don’t verify it. This way, the scammer won’t know they’ve hit an authentic account.
- Do not click any links embedded in the verification request message or download any attachments.
- Let us know you are a target.
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov so they can do their part in catching the scammers.
- Let your friends and family know about the circulating scam so they can be on the alert as well.
Now you know what a micro-deposit scam is. Scammers use micro-deposits to gain access to consumer accounts but Elevate Credit Union is doing everything possible to stop them before they can do any real damage. Together, we can beat the scammers at their game. If you like this post, check out our other posts on our MoneySmart Tips blog.