Blog TopicsPrevent Theft
CHECK FRAUD IS INCREASING - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW AND HOW TO AVOID IT
If there’s anything the last few decades have taught anyone with a computer or an email address, it’s that the internet is a hot bed of scams with criminals lurking in the dark reaches of the cyber world.
Because of that, the common thinking is that anything tangible is safer. But now property theft and cyber-crime are intersecting to create a new wave of check stealing schemes.
According to David Maimon, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia State University, “Criminals are increasingly targeting U.S. Postal Service and personal mailboxes to pilfer filled-out checks and sell them over the internet using social media platforms.”
His surveillance of 60 black market web channels showed a 738.608% monthly increase in stolen checks for sale over a one year period, from 158 to 1,325. He also notes that those numbers are just a small fraction of the illegal checks being sold online as there are thousands of illegal networks he’s not monitoring.
These criminals aren’t just cashing the check they steal; they’re more often than not altering or selling them online to some who will. These schemes, which are being perpetrated all over the country, involve using a chemical to erase the writing on the check so that it can be replaced with someone else’s name and a different monetary amount.
Yes, the checks can look tampered with, but ATMs and phone deposit apps can usually be fooled – and by the time you or a banker gets a look at the changed check or a copy of it as this man did, your money is already gone and your information is already compromised.
Plus, with the banking information on the check, thieves can not only steal your money but oftentimes also steal your identity, thereby jeopardizing almost every aspect of your life.
How can you avoid being a victim of check theft and the other crimes it can lead to? Here are some tips that can help protect you:
- Lock Up Your Letters
The days of traditional unsecure mailboxes are going by the wayside. If you still have one, replace it with a locking mailbox, like an Adoorn locking mailbox.
These boxes safely store your mail under lock and key so your letters and parcels stay put till you see fit to remove them. Not only do they have lockable hatches, each one also features strong steel construction to stop thieves from trying to pry or smash open the unit to get access to your private correspondence.
- Take Out Out-Going Mail
Don’t leave that check for your utilities sitting in your mailbox for your mail carrier to pick up. This can lead to someone opening your mailbox and stealing it before it reaches its destination. Same goes for leaving in the pick up box on your cluster box unit if it has a slot that can be breached with a fishing technique (dropping a string or object into the box and pulling it out in the hopes of “catching” a check).
Instead, take the time to mail it from a receptacle in an actual post office – or better yet wait in line and give it to the clerk behind the counter to put directly into his out-going mail pile.
- Pick Up Promptly
Thieves can’t steal what’s not there. Picking up your mail daily is a good way to keep it safe. If you can’t take it in yourself because you are away or busy, put it on hold with the post office or have a trusted friend gather it for you until you return.
- Clear Away Crime
Make sure your mailbox is in a visible location so that you have a direct line of sight to it from your house. The area around it should also be free from trees, bushes and other decorations or landscaping that can block your view of it or give a thief cover as they approach it or steal from it.
- Check on Your Checks
After you mail a check, make sure it got where it was supposed to go and was cashed for the right amount. This means staying on top of your accounts and constantly checking your banking records. With online banking this is easier than ever before.
If you notice something that doesn’t match your payments, promptly report your suspicions to your bank and if you believe you’ve been the victim of mail theft or fraud, report the incident to the United States Postal Service Inspection Service: https://www.uspis.gov/report.