Banking Safety: How to Protect Yourself from Check Fraud

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Although most financial transactions are handled online, check fraud is still a common occurrence in America. In fact, it’s due to the increased access to technology that criminals are able to produce hundreds of forged checks in a matter of hours. Preventing check fraud is no simple task, but there are many ways you can protect yourself against stolen or copied checks.

Order Checks From a Trusted Source

Never order checks from an untrusted source, or you risk a criminal copying down your information or stealing your checks. Since you’ll need to offer up information such as your contact info, checking account number, bank routing number, bank contact info, and check number, it’s essential you only order from places with a BBB accreditation. While you can order from a bank, these 12 other places to order checks are CPSA certified, contain EZSHield fraud protection, and an MP icon that makes counterfeiting checks nearly impossible.

Only Write Checks When Necessary

You won’t need to write a check for most of your financial transactions. Instead of relying on checks, use e-transfer or direct deposit, especially if the dollar amount exceeds $1000. While the initial fear is that the check will end up in the wrong hands, it’s more likely that check fraud will occur from someone copying down the information placed on the check itself. With a little bit of digging, the person in possession of the check could find your license plate, SSN, and date of birth. Only write checks to people you trust and avoid leaving checks with a cashier.

Be Careful During Tax Time

During tax time, check forgers become more aggressive. If you owe a sum of money to the IRS and have no way of transferring the money via a wire transfer or electronically, you’ll likely rely on writing a check. You may need to pay with a check if the amount is high, but everyone who owes money should be vigilant and avoid public mailboxes for the time being. Fraudsters may steal your check right out of the mailbox, modify the payee and deposit it themselves. You won’t even know you’ve been a victim of fraud until the IRS calls on you for their missing funds.

Go to the Post Office or Use a Secured Mailboxes

If you can’t use electronic transfer for any reason, the safest way to send a check is through the post office. In smaller communities, it may still be safe to take your mail outside of your home and put it in the mailbox for the mailman to take, but it’s unwise to do this in cities. Get out of this habit immediately, even if you haven’t been a victim of fraud in the past. Most towns and cities have secured mailboxes every few blocks that are difficult to open without the proper keys, but it’s still in your best interest to take all checks to a post office if you’re able.

Treat Checks Like Cash

Checks act like cash, even if they function differently. You won’t be able to give most store clerks checks, and hardly any independent retailer will use them as a valid tender, but if you lose them, it can mean you’ve lost the amount of money on the check. As soon as the check is out of your hands, someone else can pick it up and use it. Blank checks are even scarier to lose because they can be modified and deposited with little consequence. It’s best to keep an iron grip on your checkbook or just leave them at home instead of your glove compartment. 

Balance Your Checkbook

In the United States, the banks will pay back discrepancies on your checkbook as long as you notify them within 30 days. If you notice a discrepancy after that and don’t have written proof, the bank won’t care, so it’s in your best interest to learn how to balance your checkbook. While balancing your checkbook seems like an old-fashioned chore, you should do this every month to make tax time easier and to ensure you’re not a victim of fraud. A balanced checkbook won’t make it impossible to fraud you, but it will show if you were overdrawn or if an error was made.

 

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