How scammers can get money out of your bank account
In the USA there are three main ways for a third person to extract cash from a bank account.
1. Someone could get checks printed that look like yours (or not) and they could write a check and deposit it someplace. The defense against this is a feature called positive pay. Otherwise this is an easy way to extract money since most checks are never looked at by bank personnel.
2. There is an ACH. It is essentially an electronic check. For this, they would need to have their own bank account, and that bank would need to give them permission to do an ACH pull (an ACH push is typically called "Bill Pay"). The deal with an ACH is that it is reversible. If someone pulled from your account, you could tell your bank to return the funds. By law they are not to pull from your account unless they have a signed document from you giving them permission to do so. Since the banks can be at risk for the funds, they tend to examine people that they allow to do ACH pulls. So although it seems easy, an ACH pull to empty your account seems unlikely.
3. There are real wire transfers. Wire transfers in general are push only. You cannot set up a wire transfer to pull funds from someone else. So if someone has your bank information, they cannot tell your bank to send you all that money. I have seen that some wire transfers can be reversed by the sender but the request has to be made quickly and once the funds are actually in the receiver's account, they are pretty much gone (unless that receiver is committing fraud and the receiving bank figures it out or if the receiver agrees to return the funds).
From an external situation, getting checks printed is the biggest security hole. Anyone with a scanner and color laser printer can make a check that looks like it came from you and then deposit that check so that it is a small enough value to never be looked at by a human. The only time you would notice is when your bank account is overdrawn or when you balance your account. Positive pay is the only protection against that and it is very effective.
The real threat in the internet age is when someone gets enough information to convince the bank that they are you. Once they can pretend to be you, they can do anything you can do such as sending wire transfers to offshore banks. Or better yet, they can open up new credit card accounts or get bank loans and never touch a penny from your bank accounts but rather obligate you to a massive amount of debit that is far greater than the amount in your bank account.
Identity theft is the big problem. There are ways to protect against bank account info getting spread around but identity theft is the big security hole. Once they can pretend to be you they can do anything.
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