Checks – yes, those paper things you can cash for money – might be out of vogue, but they’ve yet to become extinct.
And while the check is still alive, so is check fraud.
There were more than 27,000 reports of foreign money offers and counterfeit check scams in 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The median dollar amount lost due to these scams was $1,214.
Check fraud can take a few different forms. Normally it’s a result of someone forging a check; however, victims can also be deceived into cashing fake checks and wiring money to a fraudster.
Don’t let all the talk of cybersecurity fool you – old fashioned check scams are still happening, unfortunately. But not to fear. Here are a few ways to protect yourself.
Be Smart with Your Checks
First, keep your checks secure. And by this, we don’t mean just stashing them in a lock box – which isn’t a bad idea – but also realizing that when you write a check and give it to a cashier, you’re divulging a lot of personal information.
Checks have your name, address, bank routing number and your checking account number. So be vigilant with who you write checks out to; if you have any suspicion that you’re walking into a scam, don’t pay with a check.
Another good idea: Only transfer checks using secure mailboxes. Don’t make identity theft any easier by leaving checks in precarious places. Make sure to balance your checkbook each month, too, to ensure you’re only paying for transactions you made.
Watch Out for Scams
Like most fraudulent transactions, check scams often start with an ostensible stroke of luck: you’ve won something! Maybe you’ve been selected as a “secret shopper,” or you’re the recipient of a grand prize.
Check fraudsters will send you a bad check and ask you wire a certain amount of money back to them. They might claim you need to pay taxes or fees on the prize, for example.
As soon as you’ve sent the money, they’ve got you bait and switch. The bank likely won’t find out that the check in question was bad for a number of days.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
It’s best to contact your bank or the company sending you a check to confirm it’s a legitimate transaction.
The FTC is another good resource. Give the Trade Commission a call if you suspect you’re being scammed. In these situations, the more information you can get, the better. Ultimately, it’s better to ask “too many” questions than end up losing money.
Avoiding check fraud, like any other scam, boils down to doing your homework and being informed. At Sunrise, we’ve put together an online security center to help clients distinguish legitimate transactions from fraud.
Still have questions? Get in touch today to learn how you can avoid becoming a check fraud victim.