> By M.P. DUNLEAVEY
> That said, Mr. Mierzwinski endorsed the preventive measures offered by
> Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org), a nonprofit
> consumer advocacy group, and by the Identity Theft Resource Center
> (www.idtheftcenter.org), also a nonprofit. Besides the standard advice
> to shred personal documents, following are some tips I found useful:
> -- Curtail electronic access to your bank accounts.
How exactly is one supposed to achieve this? Every bank that I have
contacted flat-out refuses to block EFT debits on consumer accounts.
They will transfer my money to anyone with my account and routing
numbers who has access to the ACH network, even though there is no
evidence that I authorized the transaction. (In fact, the banks have
strong evidence that I did not approve any such transactions since I
told them that I have not authorized any third party to electronically
debit my accounts.) Even brokerage houses are doing this, and even on
accounts with no check writing feature.
No bank that I have found discloses the destination account and
routing number of EFT debits, so you don't generally know where your
money went. Two of my banks do not even provide a unique transaction
id for EFT debits on my monthly statement.
When pressed on the issue, reps repeat the lie that Check21 forces
them to accept electronic debits. [Check21 deals with electronically
imaged checks which have nothing to do with EFT debits. Even there it
doesn't force banks to accept anything electronically. All it does is
make certain printed images legally equivalent to the original check.
Accepting the transaction electronically is optional for the banks.]
Once I had a mysterious debit show up on a passbook account -- the one
type of account that is supposedly immune to EFT access. Nevertheless,
the bank argued that I must have in some way been responsible for the
withdrawal. Only when I pointed out that the account in question was
being used by the city as a multi-signature escrow, that the city held
the passbook, and that they would likely want an explanation of where
and how the money went did the bank relent. They decided that there
had been a "coding error" and restored the money.
> Pay bills through snail mail.
If you use a normal check this still provides the recipient with your
account and routing numbers which they can then use to electronically
debit your account.