RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — We’re learning more about a clearinghouse error that impacted nearly a half million people after thousands of dollars in unauthorized payments were repeatedly pulled from their bank accounts.

Most of us no longer pay our bills with cash in person. We rely on electronic withdrawals from our bank accounts.

In the last few days, a lot of people were stunned when the mortgage servicing firm Mr. Cooper pulled multiple unauthorized payments from their accounts using electronic withdrawals–creating overdrafts and frustration.

How many were affected?

Attorney General Josh Stein’s office says over 14,000 North Carolinians were impacted. Nationally, it was almost a half million people who had unauthorized withdrawals.

“That is terrifying.” said Zack Meyer who has accounts that use auto withdrawal. “You trust a mortage company like that to be diligent in accuracy with withdrawing from your account.”

Turns out the blame belongs to a third-party vendor called ACI Speedpay which made the errors. Their website says they provide electronic payment functions for 6,000 organizations worldwide.

Consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia wanted to know what went wrong. He sent an email asking them that question as well as asking what steps the company was taking to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Their reply was quick, but it dodged the question saying only they were working with Mr. Cooper on getting people their refunds. Speedpay also referred CBS 17 to a press release from Mr. Cooper which only said it was not a security breach and that Mr. Cooper never received any of the improperly withdrawn funds.

So what can you do to protect yourself? There are several things.

First, set up electronic alerts from your bank.

It was text messages from his bank that told Sbraccia his accounts were empty after Mr. Cooper had pulled a half dozen unauthorized payments from his account.

Secondly, you need to limit who has electronic access to your accounts.

“I have a healthy respect for them and am cautious about what I allow to be debited from my account,” said consumer Liz Crute.

CBS 17 has also learned that Stein’s office is now looking into what happened regarding Mr. Cooper’s unauthorized withdrawals and we’ll keep you updated.

Stein’s office says if you were affected by the unauthorized withdrawals, you can file a complaint about it online.