The Federal Reserve System might be the central banking system of the United States, but it is not your bank. To that end, you can’t provide a service provider, merchant, or other entity with the routing number from the Federal Reserve, and if someone asks you to, it’s likely a scam.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta recently issued a scam warning notifying consumers that some ne’er-do-wells are asking potential victims to provide routing numbers or accounts from the Federal Reserve to pay bills.
According to the Fed, the agency has recently received a number of unauthorized transactions in which consumers have tried to use the Fed’s routing number and their personal Social Security numbers as an account number to pay their bills. This occurred after schemers informed victims that the Fed held a “secret” account under their SSN that could be used to pay bill.
The problem with this, the Fed says, is that consumers can not use Federal Reserve routing numbers when making online or e-check bill payments. This is because Federal Reserve routing numbers are used for sorting and processing payments between banks. Additionally, the Fed only provides banking services for banks, not people.
“Any video, text, email, phone call, flyer, or website that describes how to pay bills using a Federal Reserve Bank routing number or using an account at the Federal Reserve Bank is a scam,” the warning notes.
The NACHA, the rules body for many electronic payments in the U.S, notes that another version of the scheme involves the video that have identified routing number of different financial institutions.
Additionally, any bill payments attempted using the Fed’s routing numbers are being rejected and returned unpaid. As a result, consumers who have attempted to use the Fed’s routing numbers to pay their bills may be subject to penalty fees from the company they were attempting to pay — should they be legitimate.
NACHA notes that consumers should always safeguard their Social Security number and only use their own trusted bank or credit union account and routing numbers to pay bills or make purchases.
Using account and routing numbers that are not your own will result in payments being rejected. In addition, you may face legal or financial penalties, the organization says.
Christina Tetreault, our colleague and staff attorney for Consumers Union, echoed these concerns, adding that the “dangerous misinformation” can leave individuals worse off.
“Not only are victims still on the hook for what they owed in the first place, but also potentially liable for late fees and other penalties,” she said. “Worse case scenario: people who try to do this may be prosecuted for fraud.”
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.