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Take Steps to Protect Yourself from Check Fraud

Check Fraud is On the Rise: Take Steps to Protect Yourself
Posted on 10/25/2023

Cases of check fraud are on the rise. In 2022, there were more than 680,000 reports of potential check fraud, nearly double the previous year, according to the Federal Reserve.

Fraudsters will steal mail out of people's mailboxes and pull out checks. After "washing" the checks, a process that removes the name of the payee and the amount written on the check, blank checks are either sold online or used by writing in a new amount and payee on the check. The checks are then deposited, and once cleared, the fraudsters withdraw the funds as cash, often at an ATM.

Checks loaded with personal information, including full names, addresses, bank account information and what your signature looks like. In addition to potential check fraud, checks can be a way for fraudsters to commit identity theft. They can use the information on checks to find even more information, including Social Security numbers and email addresses.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself against check fraud.

  •  The fewer checks you write, the lower your risk. If you're paying bills with paper checks, consider online payment solutions through the company or bill pay options through your bank.
  • Practice good check-writing habits. If you must write a check, use indelible ink so it's harder to wash. Don't let there be any blank spaces in front of or after the payment amount. Avoid writing blank checks or writing a check out to "cash," no matter how much you trust the person you're giving it to.
  • Monitor your accounts. If you see suspicious activity, report it immediately. Online and mobile banking allow users to see account activity sooner, which is safer and more effective than waiting for paper statements to arrive in the mail.
  • Keep your checks in a secure, private place in your home. Avoid keeping blank checks in your wallet, purse or vehicle.
  • If you have checks out with others, track them to make sure they get deposited. If a check hasn't been deposited for a while, ask about it. If the recipient didn't receive it, you can stop the check.
  • Mail checks and other sensitive mail at the post office. Also, avoid putting up the flag on your mailbox and leaving checks in there for the mail carrier to pick up, creating an easy target for thieves.

If you think your check has been stolen:

  1. Notify your bank immediately.
  2. Report suspected mail losses to the United States Postal Inspection Service, which uses the reports to identify problem areas and where to focus crime investigations, at or 877.876.2455.
  3. Report the theft to local law enforcement.

While you may need to write a check occasionally, it's essential to understand the risks – and how to protect yourself. When you have the option between paying by check, credit card, debit card, or an ACH transfer, realize that checks are by far the most vulnerable.

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