Check-altering criminal mastermind Frank Abagnale has five ways to lockdown your checking account and secure your identity. Check fraud isn’t an anachronistic threat like Communism. Determined thieves can easily use your checks to steal your cash and your identity. Here’s how to stop them…
1. Don’t write checks.
Here’s the reason: If I write a check at Walgreens or CVS, I’m leaving that check behind with the clerk. And on that check is my name, address, phone number, my bank’s name and address, my bank account number, routing number, and my signature. And if that store clerk writes down my driver’s license on the front of the check, in nine states—including the one I live in—that’s my Social Security number, too. Then, next to it he writes my date of birth.
“Well, I don’t get that check back. So I don’t know if CVS destroyed the check, if they put it in a warehouse for seven days or 30 days. What I do know is that anyone who sees the front of that check has more than enough information to draft on my bank account.
2. Make sure the IRS cashed your tax check. Crafty thieves look for envelopes addressed to the IRS and, like resourceful squirrels, rip out the delicious fruit inside and claw off the IRS’ name and replace it with their own.
3. Don’t put checks in your mailbox. “That’s like putting the flag up [for fraudsters] to come get my mail.” Entrust your check-filled envelopes to the post office.
4. Treat your checkbook like cash. Leaving a checkbook exposed in your car is like hanging a sign on your windows reading “Smash Me!”
5. Balance your checkbook, or at least keep an eye on your online bank statement:
About 51 percent of Americans do not reconcile their bank statement—they don’t even open it. Banks love this because we have a law in the United States called Article 3, Section 406 of the Uniform Commercial Code. It says that you have 30 days from receipt of your statement to notify the bank of any discrepancies that may appear on your statement. If you don’t do that, then the bank has no liability to pay you.
Our online banking setup keeps us from hunting down the checkbook lurking somewhere in our apartment. Do people still use checks?
5 Ways to Avoid Being a Check-Fraud Victim [U.S. News & World Report]