How to Protect Yourself from the Costs of Check Theft and Bank Fraud

Woman using banking app to mobile deposit a check

Identity theft and bank fraud can be a financially devastating experience for anyone. If it goes undetected for any length of time, the cost to bank accounts and credit score can ruin your carefully managed finances for years in the future. Especially if you are faced with proving that charges and use of your identity in purchases were done fraudulently.

What most people don't realize is just how common identity theft and bank fraud really are. They are, in fact, the most common type of cybercrime after disruptive malware and it can happen to anyone. Today, we're here to share a few tips on protecting your checkbook and your online banking accounts to prevent the kind of debts and financial trouble that check theft and bank fraud can cause.

1. Guard Your Checkbook Carefully

There are still several industries and lifestyles that include using checks on a regular basis. If you are someone with a personal checkbook, the first tip is the most obvious: Guard your checkbooks.

Don't leave your active checkbook out on your desk or in a predictable unlocked place. This creates an opportunity for someone to steal the book (or just one check). Keep your checkbook in a locked drawer, lockbox, or a secure section of your purse. Never leave it unlocked or unguarded. Consider your checkbook to have the same security risk as your debit card and treat it with appropriate care.

2. Lock Away Your Extra Checkbooks

Among the people who do have checkbooks, it's very common to buy in bulk. After all, you'll wind up needing those extra checks eventually and it's much more cost-effective to buy a box of checkbooks all at once. But these extra checkbooks aren't just handy supplies waiting to be used. They are real checks with your account number on them, and most people leave the box of checkbooks in unlocked office storage.

If someone came along and took one of your extra checkbooks, it might be months before you notice. For this reason, it's a very good idea to store your extra checkbooks behind lock and key, and not to broadcast where they are stored.

3. Avoid Mailing Checks

It may be illegal to take things out of a mailbox, but people still do it. One of the most common sources of check theft is picking up checks out of a mailbox and then making a new book with the same name and account number.

So avoid mailing checks whenever possible. And if you do need to mail a check, fold another piece of paper around the check to make sure it can't be detected as a check when held up to the light. This will significantly decrease your chances of check theft through the mail.

4. Log Out of Your Personal Banking App

You can also find yourself looking at charges from counterfeit checks even if you have never ordered a checkbook in your life. While this can be done with just your name and account numbers, criminals have an easier route these days: Stealing your phone.

We are constantly logged in to a dozen different personal apps, including apps for banks. If your phone or bank app has helpfully kept you logged in so you don't have to re-enter a password to check your account... they are doing you a disservice. Log out of your personal banking app every time you're done using it so that someone who steals (or even borrows) your phone can't order checkbooks or make purchases in your name using your authorized login.

5. Don't Let Your Browser Save Bank Logins

Next, consider that web browsers do the same thing, only worse because they fill the passwords in for you. Remembering your login credentials may seem convenient for managing your finances, but it's a huge security problem. In the end, this means that any computer or device where you have logged in through a browser will give anyone access to your bank by filling in the password.

So change your bank password, scrub your browser memory, and deny it permission to remember the next time you log in. This way, no one can use your auto-login to hack your account later on.

6. Monitor Your Identity

Of course, actual hackers don't need access to your browser or phone to create a counterfeit checkbook. If your name and bank account numbers were ever lost in a corporate data breach, then there's a chance some hacker has it and will eventually use it for some kind of fraud. This means that false credit cards or checkbooks with your name and account number can, theoretically, be made at any time.

To keep an eye on this situation, use online tools to monitor your identity. You can track if your name has appeared in breach reports, unusual use of your accounts, and any criminal reports with your stolen identity.

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Identity theft, check theft, and bank fraud can all wreak terrible consequences on your personal finances. Protect yourself from these troubles by guarding your debit card, checkbook, and online banking accounts with great care. For more everyday financial insights and advice, please contact us today or check out our blog further.