Check fraud is an increasing problem that causes many individuals to be concerned, anytime they put pen to paper in order to write a check. It is also something that has been sensationalized, thanks to the 2002 film, "Catch Me If You Can". This true to life story showed how, in the late 1960s, one man passed $2.5 million in bad checks throughout the United States and in 26 different countries. How can you avoid being a victim of check fraud today?
Avoid Using Checks When Possible - There are a variety of ways for you to make payments, including in cash and using credit card. If possible, it is a good practice to avoid writing personal checks in order to make payments. This is especially true for payments to take place in public locations, such as at the grocery store or at the drugstore. Consider the fact that on the check is personal information, including your address, name and phone number. Each check also contains the routing number and account number of your checking account, as well as your personal signature. In many cases, you also need to include your driver’s license number on the check as well. This amount of information can result in a serious leak of security, which can be avoided if you pay by other means.
Secure Your Mailbox - When many people pay their utility bills, they write out a check and leave it in their mailbox, waiting for the mail carrier to pick it up and send it on its way. Unfortunately, this also results in security problems, because the flag on your mailbox becomes a flag that alerts thieves to the possibility of committing fraud. If you must write out a check to the utility company, take it to a secure mailbox at the post office.
Balance Your Checkbook - You would probably be surprised with the number of individuals who did not balance their check books every month. If you are not keeping track of your checkbook in such a way, it is possible that you may not recognize the fact that a fraudulent check was passed. According to article 3, section 406 of the Uniform Commercial Code, you only have 30 days to notify the bank that there is a discrepancy on the statement (Source: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-104.html).
Use Check Writing Software - Both businesses and individuals alike can use software to write checks on a regular basis (Source). This can help to reduce fraud for several reasons. One of the ways in which it does so is by using a professional image associated with your business on every check. The software also can monitor your bank accounts closely to catch any issues that are occurring, shortly after they take place.
Be Cautious at Tax Time - Finally, you should be especially cautious during certain times of the year. At tax time, many people are paying their taxes with a check, made payable to the Internal Revenue Service. Many fraudsters will watch for these checks to appear in your mailbox, steal them and modify the payee in order to deposit the money. There are additional options to pay your IRS bill, or you should send it from a secure mailbox, as was described above.