/    /  Consumer– Glossary

Consumer– Glossary


ACH Automated Clearing House – Computer-based clearing and settlement facility for exchanging electronic debits and credits among financial institutions. Clearinghouses among banks have traditionally been organized for check-clearing purposes, but more recently have cleared other types of settlements, including electronic fund transfers

Anti-virus – Software that detects, repairs, cleans, or removes infected files from a computer

Availability date – When funds deposited at a financial institution are available to the customer

Better Business Bureau – A business-supported non-profit organization that promotes marketplace trust by setting standards and supporting best practices.  Consumers may contact the BBB to learn about businesses they are considering doing business with

CAN Spam Act – Federal law that prohibits senders of unsolicited commercial email from using false or misleading header information or deceptive subject lines, and requires they identify each email as an advertisement, among other provisions

Cancelled check – Checks the bank has processed

Cashier’s check – A check written by a bank on its own funds in exchange for payment by an individual

Check – A written order to a bank to pay the amount specified from funds on deposit

Check 21 or Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act – Allows banks to exchange and pay on images of checks sent electronically instead of the original paper check

Check clearing – The movement of a check from the institution at which it was deposited back to the institution on which it was written, and the movement of funds in the opposite direction. It includes the corresponding credit and debit to the involved accounts. The Federal Reserve operates a nationwide check-clearing system

Collected funds – When a person deposits a check or money order into an account the money is transferred to his or her account from the payor’s account.  When the money has been transferred, not just made available, it is called “collected”

Counterfeit check – A check written on a bank or an account that does not exist. Some fake checks look so real that banks report being fooled

Credit bureau (CRA-Credit Reporting Agency) – A for-profit company that is in the business of accumulating, storing, and distributing credit information


Credit freeze (security freeze) – Prevents access to your credit report. An identify thief cannot open a new account in your name because the creditor cannot check your credit fil

Do Not Call Registry – Managed by the Federal Trade Commission, consumers register their phone numbers to limit the type of telemarketing calls they receive

Drive-by Download – Software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge when you visit certain websites. To avoid drive-by downloads make sure to update your operating system and Web browser regularly

Electronic Check Clearing – See Check 21

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) – The electronic transfer of money between accounts – through means such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and electronic bill paying –rather than moving money by check or cash. (Wire transfers, checks, drafts, and paper instruments do not fall into this category.)

Escrow Service – Licensed company that collects and holds a buyer’s money until the item purchased is received. After the buyer approves the item, the company sends the payment to the seller. A fee is charged for this service

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Created in 1914, the FTC is the federal agency charged with advancing consumer interests

Firewall – Hardware or software that blocks unauthorized communications to or from your computer; helps keep hackers from using your computer to access your personal information

Forgery – The fraudulent signing or alteration of another’s name to an instrument such as a deed, mortgage, or check. The intent of forgery is to deceive or defraud

Fraud – Deceiving someone to obtain something of value

Fraud Alert – A key provision of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 is the consumer’s ability to place a fraud alert on their credit record. A consumer would use this option if they believe they were a victim of identity theft. The alert requires any creditor that is asked to extend credit to contact the consumer by phone and verify that the credit application was not made by an identity thief

Fund availability – Bank’s policy as to when funds deposited into an account will be available for withdrawal

Hacker – Someone who uses computers and the Internet to access other people’s computers without permission

Hold – Used to indicate that a certain amount of a customer’s balance may not be withdrawn until an item has been collected, or until a specific check or debit is posted.

https – Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure; a secure communication protocol on the Web using SSL (Secure Socket Layer). This is used in e-commerce to provide authentication and encrypted communication so information will not be intercepted; URLs that have an “s” after the http are secure sites

IC3 – Internet Crime Complaint Center. This partnership between the FBI, National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance helps consumers report Internet crime and refers criminal complaints to appropriate authorities

Identity theft – A thief steals and uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes

Insufficient funds (Non Sufficient Funds/NSF) – When a depositor’s checking account balance is inadequate to pay a check presented for payment

Malware – short for “malicious software;” includes viruses and spyware that steal personal information, send spam and commit fraud

National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) – Provides consumers with advice about promotions in cyberspace and routes reports of suspected online and Internet fraud to the appropriate government agencies

Outstanding check – A check written by a depositor that has not yet been presented for payment to, or paid by, the depositor’s bank

Overdraft – A check written without sufficient money in an account to cover it

Personal information – Information that identifies you such as your name, Social Security number, birth date, credit card number, and bank account numbers

Payee – The person who is going to receive the money

Payor – The person who is going to pay the money

Scam Baiters – Vigilante enforcers who “play” along with 419 scams to aggravate the con artists

Stop Payment – An order not to pay a check that has been issued but not yet cashed. If requested soon enough, the check will not be debited from the payer’s account. Most banks charge a fee for this service

United States Postal Inspection Service – The law enforcement arm of the United States Postal Service whose primary mission is to protect the nation’s mail system from criminal use

Wire Transfer – A transfer of funds from one point to another by wire or network such as the Federal Reserve Wire Network or Western Union

419 – Email scam from someone who asks for your help to get money out of a foreign country; an Advance Fee Fraud that is named after the 4-1-9 penal code in Nigeria that relates to fraud

Advance Fee Fraud – A scam in which you send money for goods or services you will never receive

Fake check scams – You receive a check that is for more money than you expect to receive. After depositing the check you are asked to forward the “extra” money to the scammer or a third party. The check is bad and the money really comes from your account

  • Charitable organization scam – request for donation to a charity that does not exist or that only exists to be a source of income for the scam artist
  • Disaster scam – request to wire money to help a friend in need. The scammer tells you that someone you know is injured or needs help with legal fees
  • Dream job – Scammers claim that, for a fee, they will assist you in obtaining employment
  • Grants – Scam that offers to process paperwork for Federal or other grants for a fee
  • Inheritance scam (or will scam) – A con artist claims that a distant relative has left you a large sum of money, and, for a fee (or the “taxes” on the inheritance), the con artist offers to process the inheritance
  • Lost pet – A scammer follows up on an ad or flyer the victim has posted regarding a lost pet. The con artist falsifies veterinary bills and/or transportation costs and urges the victim to pay so the pet can be returned. In reality, the con artist does not have the pet
  • Lottery scam – Scammer writes that you have won the lottery, but you must pay taxes and fees to collect
  • Love scam – You meet someone online who falls in love with you, but needs help with bills or travel costs to come and see you
  • Mystery shopper – Scam in which the mystery shopper usually receives a check for shopping, but must return part of the money to the scammer. The check is fraudulent
  • Online auction scam – Scammer sends a fake check to purchase an auction item. Victim sends the item after depositing the fake check
  • Recovery 419 scam – A re-load scam in which the scammer takes the victim’s money in a con and then contacts the victim a second time with a scheme to purportedly help them recover the money they lost
  • Rental scam – Scammer advertises an apartment and “rents” it to the victim, taking first and last month’s rent and/or deposits. The con artist does not actually have any connection to the rental property
  • Social network scam – Hacker enters a victim’s social networking site and sends an email that tells the victim’s friends the victim is stranded, sick or detained in a distant location. The friends are asked to send money
  • Transfer funds – Scammer asks for assistance to move money out of their country into a U.S. or other country’s bank account. The victim is told he or she can keep a portion of the money for assisting
  • Work-at-home scam – Scammer advertises a home-based job or work in an industry for which the victim must buy supplies or pay fees to be employed


Guyman – A term a 419 scammer uses for himself

Mugu – A person who falls for a scam

Phishing – Scam that involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure people to send personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords, or other sensitive information. This can lead to identity theft

Ploys – A maneuver or stratagem, as in conversation, to gain the advantage

Scam – To cheat or defraud with a con

Scheme – A plan, design, or program of action to be followed; an underhanded plot

Skimming – An illegal act.  Criminals use a device that steals information from a credit card’s magnetic strip and then puts that information onto a counterfeit card

Spam – Unsolicited commercial or junk email, often sent in bulk quantities

Spoof – Webpage that appears to be put up by a reputable company but is really a fake page phishing for personal information

Twam – Spam received via Twitter