7 precautions you can take to prevent check fraud

The decline in check use hasn’t slowed criminals from stealing people’s money

Check fraud, precautions.Use direct deposit: Thieves can’t take a check from your mailbox if one isn’t there.Do not mail bills from your mailbox: It’s a favorite place for criminals to steal your check.This also applies to street mailboxes, which aren't as safe as they seem.Do not leave blank spaces: When filling out your check, make sure you use all the space on the payee and amount lines

Check use has been on the decline for decades, with the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia predicting paper checks will become obsolete in the next few years.

That’s not stopping criminals however.

According to the Associated Press, banks issued about 680,000 reports of check fraud to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in 2022. That’s up from 350,000 reports in 2021. Meanwhile the U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported about 300,000 complaints of mail theft in 2021, more than double 2020’s total.

If you’re still mailing paper checks to pay your bills, there are steps you can take to protect your finances. Some are obvious; others you might not have thought of. Here are a few:

Use direct deposit: Thieves can’t take a check from your mailbox if one isn’t there.

Do not give your checking account number to people you don’t know: Even if they claim they are from your bank, closely guard that account information.

Do not mail bills from your mailbox: It’s a favorite place from which a criminal can steal your check, according to American Family Insurance. Criminals will either endorse the check using fake ID, photocopy and cash it repeatedly, scan and alter the check, or chemically alter it. If you have to mail a check, drop it off at the post office.

Do not put mail in street mailboxes: The highest rate of mail theft, according to American Family, is from those blue Postal Service mailboxes on street corners and other public places.

Do not leave blank spaces: When filling out your check, make sure you use all the space on the payee and amount lines.

Limit your personal information on your check: If your Social Security, driver’s license or telephone numbers are included, a criminal can use them to steal your identity.

Properly dispose of canceled checks: Unless needed for tax purpose, destroy canceled checks, account statements, deposit tickets and ATM receipts by shredding or burning.

Criminals can easily get their hands on your money with a blank check taken from your check book, a canceled check found in the garbage or a check mailed to pay a bill. Taking these steps can lessen their chances of success.

About the Author