Understanding and Preventing Check Fraud: Protecting Your Finances

First Seacoast Bank • June 17, 2024
Check Fraud prevention

In today's digital age, it's easy to overlook traditional forms of fraud, like check fraud. However, this type of financial crime is a significant threat to individuals and businesses. At First Seacoast Bank, we are dedicated to helping our customers stay informed and protected against all forms of financial fraud. This article will explore what check fraud is, how it happens, how to prevent it, and what to do if you fall victim to this crime.

What is Check Fraud?

Check fraud encompasses a range of deceitful activities. One of the most common forms of this fraud is check washing, where criminals chemically erase ink from a stolen check and rewrite it with new information. This can lead to unauthorized withdrawals and significant financial losses.

Other forms of check fraud include:

  • Forged Checks: Creating fake checks using the account holder's information.
  • Altered Checks: Changing the details on a legitimate check to benefit the criminal.
  • Counterfeit Checks: Producing checks that look genuine but are fraudulent.

How Does Check Fraud Happen?

Criminals employ various tactics to commit check fraud, including:

  • Mail Theft: Stealing checks from mailboxes.
  • Dumpster Diving: Retrieving discarded checks or bank statements from the trash.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering: Obtaining personal information through deceptive practices.
  • Using Advanced Printing Technology: Creating high-quality fake checks that are difficult to distinguish from real ones.

Preventing Check Fraud

Preventing check fraud requires vigilance and proactive measures. Here are some essential tips:

  1. Use Secure Ink: One of the simplest ways to protect your checks is by using gel pens. The ink from gel pens is resistant to check-washing techniques, making it difficult for criminals to alter the information. Be sure to pick up a branded gel pen from our lobbies during your next visit to First Seacoast Bank.
  2. Monitor Your Accounts Regularly: Frequently monitor your bank statements and online accounts for any unauthorized transactions. Early detection can help mitigate potential losses.
  3. Store Checks Securely: Keep your checkbook in a safe place, away from prying eyes. Avoid leaving checks in your car or other vulnerable locations.
  4. Shred Sensitive Documents: Shred any documents containing personal or financial information before disposal to prevent dumpster dive acquisitions.
  5. Opt for Electronic Payments: Whenever possible, use electronic payment methods, which are less susceptible to fraud (and better for the environment!).
  6. Be Cautious with Mail: Use a secure mailbox to send and receive checks. Consider using electronic bill payment services to reduce the need for mailing checks.

What to Do if You Become a Victim of Check Fraud

Despite best efforts, check fraud can still occur. If you suspect or discover that you are a victim of check fraud, follow these steps:

  1. Contact Your Bank Immediately: Report the fraudulent activity to First Seacoast Bank as soon as possible. We can help freeze your account and prevent further unauthorized transactions.
  2. File a Police Report: Notify your local law enforcement agency about the fraud. Provide them with all relevant information, including any altered or forged checks.
  3. Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports: Contact one of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your credit report. This will make it more difficult for criminals to open new accounts in your name.
  4. Review and Dispute Unauthorized Transactions: As noted above, carefully reviewing your bank statements and account activity regularly will put you in a better position to dispute any unauthorized transactions with your bank promptly.
  5. Stay Vigilant: Continue to monitor your accounts and take preventive measures to protect yourself from future fraud.

Learn More About Financial Fraud

For more comprehensive information on how to protect yourself from various types of financial fraud, visit the Financial Fraud section of our blog. You'll find articles on identifying and avoiding common scams, safeguarding your holiday cash, and more.

At First Seacoast Bank, your financial security is our priority. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and remember to pick up one of our branded gel pens to help safeguard your checks against fraud. Together, we can combat financial crime and protect your hard-earned money.

If you have any questions or need further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.