You probably don’t use paper checks anymore. Are you mailing payments back to insurance providers and medical providers? You pay by check to cover a parking ticket, or for your child to take piano lessons. A Financial Crimes Enforcement Network alert in February stated that check fraud linked to mail theft was on the rise nationwide. Letter carrier robberies and check fraud are on the increase.
Partly, this is due to pandemic effects when thieves began targeting government relief checks sent in the post. Michael Bruemmer is the head of Experian’s global data breach solution. He says that fraudsters have returned to old-fashioned attack methods which worked.
Postal Service in the U.S. The U.S. It can also take several weeks for the money to be returned.
Mary Ann Miller is the fraud and cybercrime advisor at Prove, and Vice President of Client Experience. This can drain your entire account.
Check fraud is a serious problem. Here’s how to protect yourself and what you should do if it happens to you.
Check your statement for online payment instructions. You can check your statement to see if there are any online payment instructions. Miller notes that “we are starting to see more options online.” Some medical providers like One Medical offer a nice mobile payment option that includes all your medical data. It’s super modern and helpful.
Ask the individual you are paying if they will accept an electronic payment via PayPal, Venmo or Zelle. “There is no reason to write checks anymore,” Bruemmer claims.
Do you work with a seller who doesn’t provide an easy method to pay online for your order? Ask if it is possible to pay by phone. Miller states that paying by phone using the IVR (interactive voice response) or live customer service representatives is definitely preferred. Make sure to call the right number, whether it’s for a utility company or a medical facility.
Experts recommend that you use credit cards whenever possible. If you are traveling abroad or buying online, you have more global protection with a card.
How to send checks securely
Take steps to reduce the risk of financial disaster if you have to send a cheque. Consider using UPS or FedEx to ship large payments. Miller confirms that they accept checks, and also provide a tracking code.
Use the U.S. Postal Service. Place your payment into a secure envelope, and then take it to the nearest post office. This will avoid mailboxes, and any mail carriers. Use a black ink gel pen when writing your checks to prevent criminals from washing them (the ink absorbs into the paper).
Ask the recipient to notify you when they have received a check. Miller says that if the recipient doesn’t receive the check after a certain amount of time, then you can stop the payment.
Last but not least, keep enough money in your account to cover the monthly bills. The rest can be put into a savings account linked with the account. Your checking balance will be smaller the lower your money is that someone can access by forging your check.
What to do if your check is wrong
Call your bank immediately if you think a check may have fallen into the wrong hand. You should then file a police complaint and notify the business or person who was supposed to receive the checked. You may need to arrange to pay another amount if you made a payment.
You should be aware that the process for returning money lost to bank accounts varies by institution and can take a long time. Miller says that the customer is generally made whole but it could take months.
Consider putting an alert for fraud on your credit report in the event that someone attempts to open a credit account in your name. In addition, review your bank statement and credit report with a keen eye. Note that you’re eligible for a free credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Some banks offer check monitoring, which allows you to receive alerts or text messages when a transaction exceeds a specified amount.
Bruemmer: “Now, I would say that almost every bank is monitoring.” Take advantage of the free alerts that come with being a part of a financial institutions .”
The Associated Press originally published this article, which was written by NerdWallet.