Published June 4, 2021
What is a micro-deposit?
Before we can explore the actual scam, it’s important 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 actually 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 are primarily used to verify account ownership. For example, if you’d like to link your checking account at Maps Credit Union 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. You’ll be notified that the firm has sent these deposits, and asked to verify the amount of the deposit 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 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’re targeted
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’ve been targeted.
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.
Be aware and stay safe!