11 Important Tips For When You Use Checks to Avoid Getting Scammed

By Chika

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Last Updated: January 28, 2022

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Every year, more than 15 million Americans are projected to be victims of identity theft and fraud, resulting in damages of more than $50 billion.

The personal check is one form of payment that can be targeted by such assaults. Personal checks are still a legitimate payment option that millions of people use on a daily basis, but it's critical to ensure that you're using them safely. 

When using checks, make sure you are following the proper safety rules and reduce your risk of getting conned. 

 

11 Ways to Safely Use Checks & Reduce Your Risk of Getting Scammed

1. Use black ink

Always use black ink on checks because it settles into the paper and makes it more difficult for crooks to change.

To change checks, many fraudsters utilize check washing, which involves using chemicals to obliterate sections of the check, such as the payment amount. This is harder to do using black ink. When writing a check, attempt to use a fountain pen or a gel ink pen.

2. Void when there is a mistake

It's very important to make a check unusable if you make a mistake and it falls into the wrong hands.

Make a bold "VOID" across the front of the check, then tear it in half. Then either keep it in a secure location, burn it, or shred it using a paper shredder.

3. Leave minimal space between characters

Always write the first numeral close to the dollar sign when writing the dollar amount on the check.

This assures that no one may change the amount by adding another numeral to make it larger than you meant. In the space where you type out the amount in words, the same logic applies.

4. Sign with your full name

It is advisable to always sign the check with your full name as a partial name may not be considered legally valid.

If your name is “Tim Jack,” then that is the name you should sign, rather than just “Tim”, “TJ”, “Jack”, or an alias or nickname.

5. Keep records

Always keep a record of your check.

This gives you a written record of what each check was for when it was written, and how much it cost. In the case that your identity is stolen, it can be a valuable piece of proof.

6. Use online payment when possible

There are a plethora of online payment platforms which have made it easy for people to make payments.

Using these platforms sometimes is more secure than writing a check, provided you do not give away sensitive information. Before making any online payment, verify the authenticity of the site. 

7. Store your checks in a secure place

Always keep your checkbooks in a safe place at home and never carry one with you.

Be careful to properly dispose of outdated checks and checkbooks as well.

8. Take extra precautions when using mail

If you must mail a check, use a security envelope or place the check between the other papers in the envelope so that it is not visible.

It's also a good idea to avoid sending checks from your home mailbox. Visiting the post office or utilizing an official postal delivery mailbox is a safer bet than using a personal mailbox, as they are often far more secure.

9. Address to a specific payee

Always be specific when addressing your check to the payee

Add a specific name on the line that says "Pay to the order of'' when writing a check. This slot should never be marked "Cash" or left blank, as this allows anyone to cash it.

Also, avoid using common names when addressing checks such as Carl Thomas. If possible use a middle name to add some measure of specificity. 

10. Monitor your account closely

Regularly monitor your bank accounts and report any unusual activity right once.

Many banks allow you to set up automated notifications so you'll be notified of any questionable logins or transactions.

11. Do not write your Social Security

Avoid writing your Social Security number on a check, unless you have specific instructions for a specific purpose, such as paying taxes to the US Internal Revenue Service.

It is personally identifiable information that could be exploited to steal your identity or compromise your financial accounts.

 

Key takeaway

While checks may come in handy in many situations, it's crucial to be mindful of the dangers they pose if the payer is not security conscious.

Since doing away with checks is out of the question, it is up to the account holder to seek creative ways to protect themselves against fraud. 

You may assist in constructing a line of defense against check fraud by limiting the number of checks you write, ensuring they are mailed securely, and taking the time to monitor your account's activity.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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