Believe it or not, checks are still a vital form of payment for both individuals and businesses alike. Checks are often viewed as a safer option than other types of transactions, like credit card payments. But, of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t still risks (such as check fraud) when sending or receiving checks. That’s why many businesses are now turning to check outsourcing with companies that specialize in check printing and processing.
But even if you don’t have the means or need to hire an outsourced payment processing team (as an individual, we don’t exactly recommend this move unless you’re sending a lot of checks) there are still ways that you can help make your check payments and personal information much more secure. Most individuals are shocked to learn how just a few simple techniques can make your checks that much safer. Here, we’re taking a closer look at check fraud and what you need to know before writing that next check.
What is Check Fraud?
It seems like for as long as there have been checks, there’s been some form of check fraud. But what is this exactly? Check fraud, essentially, refers to an incident when another individual intentionally deprives you of your funds (via a check payment) through deceptive and malicious practices. There are many different forms of check fraud ranging from advanced chemical alteration to simple theft.
Modern checks have high levels of advanced security features; however, fraudsters continue to develop their own methods for bypassing these measures and stealing funds or personal information. Some of the most common types of check fraud include:
Theft: this one is pretty self-explanatory. This type of fraud occurs when someone steals your check with the intent to cash it for themselves. This type of check fraud highlights why you should always store your paper checks in a safe place—like a lockbox at home—to ensure your checks are safe.
Check kiting: this type of check fraud is a bit more complex. Check-kiting involves a fraudster using two separate bank accounts. First, they will write a fraudulent check from one account. After that, they’ll withdraw the funds from the second account and they do this before the bank has the time to acknowledge the fraudulent transaction. Check-kitting is quick and can prove to be effective.
Forgery: this type of fraud occurs when someone forges their name onto a paper check.
Chemical alteration: this is also known as “check washing. This method of fraud refers to when someone uses chemicals to actually physically wash out information on the check. The person can then change information and write the check to themselves or alter the total amount of cash on it.
How Are Checks Kept Secure by Banks?
To combat check fraud, banks and financial institutions use a variety of specialized methods to make checks much harder to alter, duplicate, or use for fraudulent purposes. Many of these methods take place on the physical check itself, adding special features that make the check hard to alter, much like how modern bills have more advanced features compared to older ones. It’s in everyone’s best interest—except for fraudsters—to make checks as secure as possible.
Some of the most common check security features include:
- Warning borders.
- Visible fibers.
- Security back printing.
- Chemically reactive paper.
- Toner adhesion.
- Prismatic printing.
What Should I Know Before Writing My Next Check?
The banks do a lot of work in making progress to keep your checks and payments more secure. But additionally, there are many things you can do when writing and sending a check to help make them even more secure and reduce your risk of being exposed to fraud. These tips and tricks are surprisingly simple—and effective.
Before writing that next check, consider the following:
1. Don’t make your checks payable to cash: this one is simple. If a fraudster happens to find a check made payable to cash, they can walk into pretty much any place that cashes checks and get those funds.
2. Don’t leave blank spaces: always make sure that you completely fill out all the spaces on your check. If you leave one spot open, such as who the payee is, they could fill in their own information or alter the existing information. Also, you want to make sure that the information you write is accurate.
3. Use darker ink when writing the check: use dark ink—not a pencil—when writing your check to make it harder for someone to alter your information.
4. Drop off at your post office: if you can, try to drop off your check at your local post office or UPS store. It’s much harder to steal a check from these places compared to your own mailbox.
Conclusion – What Should I Know Before Writing My Next Check?
Next time you’re about to sit down and write a check, take a quick pause. Think about the ways that you’re ensuring that your payment will be safe. Since checks are still a relevant form of payment, this means that check fraud will still exist. In fact, each year, businesses and individuals lose millions of dollars to check fraud.
Luckily, however, banks and financial institutions are fighting back. Banks continue to create more security measures for their checks, such as micro printing, warning borders, visible fibers, and thermochromatic ink. But there are also things you can do to keep your funds secure. Never leave blank spaces on the check, use dark ink, and try to drop it off at the post office if you can. These simple tips can help you get peace of mind the next time you write a check. And if you’re operating a business, consider teaming up with an outsourced payment processing business. These experts can ensure your payments will be safe and efficient as you’ll have access to pros in the industry and the latest check printing technology. When it comes to your funds and personal information, why risk it?
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