Checks and Balances: Ways to Shield Against Check Fraud

Even though it’s more common now to pay bills online and use debit cards, the risk of check fraud still exists. These simple precautions can help protect your checks and your checking account from fraudulent use:

1. Don’t print confidential information on your checks. Never have any identifying number, driver's license number or home phone number printed on checks. Combined with other data on the check, this could give a thief enough information to apply for a loan or credit card or create a phony bank account in your name.

2. If you have a post office box, use it on checks so thieves won't know where you live.

3. Pick up new checks at the bank, instead of having them mailed to you. Be sure to notify your bank or credit union if you order checks and don’t receive them within a reasonable amount of time or if checks are missing.

4. Don’t put outgoing bills in an unattended or unlocked mailbox. Or better yet, take outgoing mail to your local post office.

5. Use a gel ink pen (preferably black) to write checks. This kind of ink permeates the fibers in the paper and makes it difficult to “wash” the check and alter it.

6. If you still have canceled checks, shred them. Never throw out checks, unused deposit slips, old bank statements or ATM receipts without shredding them with a crosscut shredder.

7. Review your checking statements immediately. Don’t delay in notifying your financial institution of any suspicious or unauthorized checks or withdrawals.