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Is there a major flaw in mobile banking?

In a few cases, checks that have been deposited electronically have also been deposited the traditional way.

By Credit.com Feb 28, 2014 1:43PM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.


Credit.com on MSN MoneyNo time to get to the bank to deposit a check? No problem. Many banks and credit unions let customers save a trip by snapping a picture or scanning an image of the check and transmitting that to them online or on their smartphone. It’s very convenient.


But is it safe? If all it takes is an image of a check -- and not the actual piece of paper -- what’s to stop someone from depositing a check more than once?


That’s exactly what happened to me recently.


Frustrated woman with mobile device © Jacqueline Veissid, Photodisc, Getty ImagesA couple of months ago I wrote several checks from an estate account I am administering. I wasn’t monitoring the account frequently online, as I do my own account. A recipient of one of the checks, a charity, reached out to say it had accidentally deposited the same check twice: electronically the first time and in person at a financial institution the second. The charity caught the mistake before I did and made good on it by sending a reimbursement check right away.


“Most banks catch the problem before the items post (twice) in the checking account,” says Bob Meara, senior analyst with Celent, a financial services research and consulting firm.


But the system is not perfect.  In particular, the biggest risk is with someone who deposits the same check at multiple financial institutions, since there is no central database to track that, Meara warns. “There are efforts along those lines, but they are limited and they are usually used in a check-cashing-type environment,” he says.


This "double depositing" doesn’t appear to be widespread, at least not yet. "They do happen. but there aren’t many of them," says David Walker, president and CEO of the Electronic Check Clearing House Organization, a banking trade association. "First place that those can usually be determined as duplicates is at the paying bank or by the paying customer. Most of the banks at this point have been pretty good at implementing duplicate-detection software."


Fortunately, consumers shouldn’t be on the hook if a check they write is cashed more than once. “There is no question that a consumer is not liable,” says Nessa Feddis, senior vice president at the American Bankers Association. Indeed Meara says duplicate check presentment is "more of a risk for the bank than for consumers."


Still, in my situation, the bank never caught the error, and had the check recipient not alerted me to the problem, it may have taken me a little while and some serious head-scratching before I figured out what happened. Other checks I wrote could have bounced if there wasn’t a cushion in the account.


Check writers, beware

Whether or not you still write checks, it’s wise to monitor your checking account carefully. Checking in daily is not overkill.


If you do spot problems, report them to your financial institution immediately. Stopping in at a local branch or calling their customer support line is fine, but also make sure you read and follow their written guidelines for reporting errors just to be on the safe side. It’s always wise to have something in writing in these situations.


More from Credit.com:


16Comments
Feb 28, 2014 7:13PM
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As an older citizen I am not against technology. It just seems the easier banking becomes, the more issues with it's easiness. In the old days you could not even cash a check from a different bank than your own unless you had reserve funds to cover the check. Does any one remember having to deposit the check, being placed on a three to ten day hold? Today we use cashiers checks however does any person remember certified checks? Passbook savings accounts, no credit cards and paying utility bills at the drugstore with cash? It is easier I grant you however a lot scarier today.
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bunch of Neanderthals to think anything Is safe these days.
Feb 28, 2014 6:56PM
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It is actually a real problem ... a check I wrote for $500 was cashed twice and the bank did not know anything about until I showed them the error ... it is a small credit union but they should have caught that!!!
Mar 1, 2014 12:41AM
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I've been checking my balance daily for years!  I don't need anyone to suggest to me what amounts to common sense!
Feb 28, 2014 7:23PM
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TiffanyB-

I got the impression from the article that the author:

1- mailed a check to the charity. 

2- Someone at the charity deposited it electronically. 

3- Someone (also at the charity) saw the physical check and deposited it

    not knowing (or forgetting) that the e-deposit had already been made. 

It appears that the only qualification this person needs to write this

article was the ability to write and then mail a check.  Being able to

explain the subsequent series of events also seemed to help.....

Mar 3, 2014 10:56AM
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Mobile phones should be outlawed except for talking.  We are skating over some dangerous territory here that cannot be reversed unless some new laws are enacted to protect people that are too dumb to know any better.
Mar 3, 2014 11:45AM
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There is no way in hell I would ever do this.... great invitation to get hacked.
Mar 3, 2014 12:47PM
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Every time you do something automated, you risk being hacked and you also put someone out of work.
Mar 3, 2014 9:15AM
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I rarely write checks. Mainly for school lunches because there is something like a $3 fee to pay online.

 

I do have a bad habit of balancing my checkbook from the bank online instead of putting the charges in as I spend the money. Many times it's because my wife doesn't give me the receipts to enter and I just enter them in as they clear. It's nice that my CU posts charges/deposits almost immediately online.

 

If I did have a check cashed twice I would probably catch it when trying to enter it into Quicken. It would warn me of the duplicate check number causing me to investigate further.

 

Personally, I think the photo deposit is the best thing that has come along. I'm totally willing to deal with a bug here or there to keep it. It's just too bad it won't let me photo deposit cash ;) j/k.

Mar 3, 2014 8:52AM
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Who writes checks anymore? I stopped when new yourk got blown up, and the stupid post office lost the car payment I mailed in. I stopped ALL paper/mail-in transactions after that.
Feb 28, 2014 5:54PM
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How did they get a physical copy of the check unless you mailed it or someone grabbed it...? Maybe once you do it electronically, you should keep better track of the check?

 

Also, it doesn't matter if you cash them at different banks because the check numbers are the same and your bank where money is being withdrawn from, SHOULD recognize that you can't have the same check number twice....

 

Also, I don't really see how anything in this article really tied to the safety of electronic banking such as hackers, etc.... Was this person qualified in any way to write this article?

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