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It’s Time To Move To Bank Auto Pay

June 15, 2023

Check fraud which can lead to identity theft has reached epidemic proportions. According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a department within the Treasury, 680,000 check fraud reports were filed by banks in 2022 compared to 350,000 in 2021.

It isn’t uncommon to hear a story about criminals stealing checks from mailboxes and now, according to a story on KPIX, mail carriers are being knocked down and their keys to the blue mailboxes stolen.

According to Naftali Harris, chief executive of Sentilink, a fraud-protection company, “Checks have very few security features and are very easy to alter or counterfeit.”

Did you know thieves can use a chemical to lift the information you wrote on a check? It’s called check washing. Steve Kenneally, senior vice president of payments and cybersecurity policy for the American Bankers Association said, “What you’re doing is handing someone a piece of paper with your name, address and bank account information.”

Also, a criminal can scan the image of your handwritten signature and then digitally re-use it for fraudulent checks or other purposes.

How can you take control back?

If you must write a check, experts suggest using a blue or black gel-ink pen since its properties make it harder for chemicals to lift. And, Amazon sells fraud resistant pens.

If you use your bank’s Bill Pay system, it is more secure than paper checks. When you login to the bank, you’ll have the usual safeguard such as two-factor authentication plus financial institutions encrypt their data. You set-up who gets paid, how much and when. You don’t have to worry about checks lost or stolen. You can even link vendors to type of bill such as insurance, groceries and so on. Everything is in one place. Transactions can be downloaded into software programs such as QuickBooks.

While nothing is 100% safe, should a fraudulent transaction occur, banks are required to investigate within 10 days though can be extended to 45 days for the refund to be issued. Compare this to the average 7 months on a paper check fraud claim. The reason – electronic payments fall under the Federal Reserve regulations on consumer rights that include protection for errors or fraud. Paper checks don’t have this protection.

If you’re still uncomfortable, most banks have the option to send you an email or text when a transaction occurs on your bank account for ongoing monitoring.

A bonus – electronic banking is friendlier to the environment – no paper used so no trees cut down!

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