With the substantial advances in technology and communication over the past 30 years, check fraud has also significantly increased. The unfortunate truth is that there are ever-expanding ways to take money from honest people and defraud financial institutions. Fortunately, this is a danger we can all prevent with the right education and attentiveness.

Americans lost more than $28 million to check fraud in 2019 alone. This figure could be much higher if banks did not catch many fraud attempts before they caused major damage to customer’s finances. By exercising superior caution, you can help lower the amount lost to check fraud; and, more importantly, save your own money. Even if you don’t use checks to pay your bills anymore, you can still fall victim to check fraud.


How Check Fraud Takes Shape

Altered and Counterfeit Checks

Altering legitimately written checks is a scam that dates back, yet it’s one that persists to this day. A person with malintent may change the amount on a check written to them personally or put their name on a check that wasn’t written to them at all. A seemingly valid check could be written out to themselves from a stolen checkbook or a found check.

Counterfeit check schemes are another way cons get money and require obtaining checks and replicating them. A criminal may require additional false information to write redeemable checks, and counterfeiting requires more advanced technology than a simple alteration. That’s why counterfeit check schemes are fewer, although still not uncommon.


Personalized Scams

Many fraudulent check schemes involve an unsolicited offer, award, or purchase which is accompanied by either a real or fake check. The target recipient of this type of scam is often told they won something, sent a fake check, but then asked to pay taxes and fees for the winnings.

You could encounter a scammer who poses as a lawyer representing a jailed loved one, or as an overseas airline employee helping a friend of yours to get home. A scammer can create any scenario if they believe it will pull on the heartstrings of their intended victim.


How to Avoid Getting Scammed Through Check Fraud

The two main things to consider when you are offered or asked to write a check is: (a) whether the situation is related to some existing part of your life; and (b) who the other party is. Whether you’re cashing or writing the check, make sure you know the other party, and check for legitimate business references whenever appropriate.

If the offer or issue surrounding the check is seemingly random, please pause for a moment to think about what the person or communication is asking of you. Think about if you have ever heard of them before, and if something seems “off”. Do not take anyone’s word for it and believe unfamiliar people over the phone without your own verification. Above all, treat the idea of winning unsolicited money with the utmost suspicion. Consider how often are people really given money for free.

When you’re uncertain about a situation, take a minute to contact your local Sherburne State Bank banker and/or fraud prevention at your credit provider or financial institution. Their simple advice can save you thousands of dollars.

A check you receive may show physical signs of fraudulence. The more obvious signs are odd-looking, misspelled, or unrelated words, which may be printed on poor quality paper. If you have time to inspect in greater detail, ensure the check has a perforated edge and a flat, dull magnetic ink character.


At Sherburne State Bank, we take the most advanced fraud prevention measures to assure your money is safe and that unauthorized person will not have access to it, all while providing secure, convenient digital banking services. We welcome you to come visit one of our branches in Becker, Monticello or Princeton in person, or contact us today!

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