Even though the use of personal checks as dwindled, check fraud is on the rise. Checks are no longer the primary method of payment. Many Americans are now using other methods of payment such as credit or debit cards, bank draft, and online banking. Despite the availability of these other forms of payments, lots of Americans still depend on personal checks to pay their bills.
There are new laws enacted to help combat check fraud. A good example of this is the Check 21 Act. The Check 21 Act allows banks to provide consumers with electronic images of checks rather than mailing them back to you in your monthly bank account statement. This helps cut down on paper as well as curb some check fraud. However, it is estimated that this growing problem costs merchants and financial institutions approximately $25 billion per year.
Tips to Help Reduce Your Chances of Being a Victim to Check Fraud
1. Balance your check book every month. If you have internet access, check the transactions regularly to ensure that no fraudulent transactions have occurred.
2. Report lost or stolen checks and lost or stolen debit cards right away. When you order new checks, make sure that all the checks are there with the shipment. The box that the checks come in should have the original shrink wrap used by the bank for shipping.
3. If at all possible, use a locking mailbox or have your mail sent to a P.O. box. Bank statements usually come in an envelope with your bank's company logo on it. This makes it easier for thieves to identify theft opportunities. Empty your mailbox every day. When you mail payments for bills, drop the envelopes in a secure mailbox.
4. Shred any paperwork related to your bank account after you are through consolidating your bank statement. This includes financial information such as your bank account number.
5. If possible, make your payments electronically rather than through the mail. If you access your account online, make sure that you follow sound internet security practices, especially with your password. Make sure that the padlock icon on the lower right hand of your browser is in the "closed" position. This indicates that the site is secure.
6. Credit cards limit your liability for fraud up to $50. Make store purchases with a credit card in lieu of a check. That way, you do not have to carry your checkbook with you.
Crime is everywhere, and opportunistic thieves will not hesitate to defraud you. By following these tips, you can protect yourself against the crime of check fraud.
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