Check fraud is a growing problem that can have devastating effects on your finances and personal well-being. In this blog post, we'll explore what check fraud is, why it's on the rise, and what you can do to protect yourself and your money.
What is Check Fraud?
Check fraud is a serious problem that can result in significant financial losses and legal consequences. It's a type of financial fraud in which someone steals your personal information, such as your name, address, or bank account number to create fake checks. From there, the fraudster can withdraw your money, make purchases, or open new accounts in your name.
Check fraud can also involve the theft of paper checks. Thieves can steal checks from mailboxes, then alter them so that they can be cashed or swipe blank checks from an unsuspecting victim, then fill the checks out and cash them.
Financial institutions reported a surge in suspected check fraud in 2021, with over 350,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed with The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). This trend continued in 2022, with SARs related to check fraud reaching a staggering 680,000 filings. This marks a significant increase of 23 percent from the previous year, underscoring the need for heightened vigilance and safeguards against fraudulent activities. Unfortunately, advances in technology have made it even easier for fraudsters to use phishing scams to steal personal information, contributing to this rise in check fraud.
Why Is Check Fraud on the Rise?
Technology has made it much easier for fraudsters to steal personal information, making check fraud on the rise. Phishing scams are becoming more sophisticated, making it easier for fraudsters to trick people into revealing their personal information online. Additionally, while fewer people are writing out checks, they're still a popular form of payment, making them a tempting target for fraudsters.
In a recent New York Times article, experts have several theories why check fraud may becoming more prevalent. One explanation is that thieves who stole stimulus checks during COVID are looking for new streams of income now that stimulus funding has ended. Another reason is that the U.S. Postal Service's mailboxes are not secure enough to keep some criminals out of them, something the postal service is looking into remedying.
Here's How to Protect Yourself From Check Fraud
There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from check fraud:
- Be careful about what personal information you share. Don't give out your name, address, or bank account number to anyone you don't know or trust. If you receive a text or phone call from someone who asks forfor personal information, check with your financial institution first before giving out this information.
- Use electronic payments as much as possible. Paying your bills electronically is simply safer because the money moves from your account to your biller's account without generating a paper check.
- Check your statements regularly. Look for any unauthorized transactions. If you see anything suspicious, report it to your credit union immediately.
- If you write checks, use checks that have security features. Microprinting and watermarks make counterfeiting and altering more difficult.
- Mail paper checks at the post office counter or lobby box. Do not place them in your mailbox for a postal worker to pick up or mail them at a freestanding post box where they can be stolen.
- Don't sign blank checks. Only sign checks when you're ready to use them.
- Shred checks you no longer need. This will help to prevent fraudsters from stealing your personal information from the checks or use those checks to steal money.
In conclusion, check fraud is a serious problem that affects millions of people each year. By following these tips, you can help to protect yourself from becoming a victim. If you suspect check fraud with an account at Hanscom FCU, call us immediately at (800) 656-4328 so that we may secure your account.
Stay alert, stay informed, and stay safe!
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