A July 19 front-page article, "Checking Account Fraud Is Increasing; Automated Payments Give Rise to Scams," details the many ways crooks can manipulate the payment system to rip off unsuspecting consumers. The story correctly points out that there are weaker consumer protections for fraudulent checks than for credit card charges, and most consumers are unaware that different payment methods (credit cards, direct debits, traditional paper checks and unsigned checks) have vastly different protections under law. In October yet another system will be set up to allow banks to turn all paper checks into electronic transactions -- a process that has the potential to introduce new problems into the system.

Howard Beales, director of the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection division, told The Post that he does not believe that tougher rules would deter checking account fraud. This is exactly why Congress, the FTC and the Federal Reserve need to require banks to allow consumers to quickly resolve fraudulent transactions or errors, ensure that consumers have access to all disputed funds until an issue is resolved, and reimburse customers for any fees or costs associated with fraud or processing errors that were not the consumer's fault.

JANELL MAYO DUNCAN

Legislative and Regulatory Counsel

Consumers Union

Washington