Posts

Check washing & check fraud can dirty your spring cleaning

, , ,

Check washing is so simple, you must learn to prevent check fraud

Are check fraud and check washing still relevant in the age of digital payments? If you’re like the average person, chances are you don’t write too many checks anymore. With the convenience of online payment options, nearly universal acceptance of credit and debit cards, and the proliferation of ATMs offering you easy access to money at every turn, why resort to the archaic, labor-intensive method of writing a check?

The simple answer—sometimes we have no other choice!  Some places still don’t accept credit cards (Costco if you don’t have an American Express), or they charge an extra fee for them.  Some retailers don’t offer online payment options.  And frankly, sometimes it’s just an old habit and we haven’t made the effort to find a safer option because we’re stuck in the mindset of “it’s never happened to me” when thinking about check fraud.

Yet, according to a recent AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey, checks remain the payment type most vulnerable to fraud attacks. In an American Bankers Association Deposit Account Fraud Survey, 73% of banks reported check fraud losses totaling approximately $893 million. And perhaps scariest of all, the imprisonment rate for check fraud is only 2% according to a statement made by the Department of Justice.  So although it’s not as glamorous or high tech as some other forms of fraud, check fraud is very tempting to criminals. It’s often as easy as taking an afternoon stroll down a street looking for vulnerable mailboxes, and then doing a little bit of “laundry”.

Check Washing Check Fraud

One form of check fraud that hits home for businesses and individuals alike is check washing.  It is the practice of removing legitimate check information, especially the “Pay To” name and the amount, and replacing it with data beneficial to the criminal (his own name or a larger amount) through chemical or electronic means. We conducted our own experiment to see just how easy it is to alter a check.  Take a look at our results in the video above.

What can you do to prevent this form of check fraud from happening to you?  There are many steps you can take:

  • Always use high security checks with multiple check fraud and check washing countermeasures
  • Use security gel-based pens with dark ink 
  • Don’t leave mail containing checks in an unattended or unlocked mailbox  (i.e. w/ red flag up)
  • Buy a locking mailbox (one large enough for a postal carrier to put mail through, but not large enough for a hand)
  • Shred voided checks
  • Check your bank statements regularly and immediately when you receive them.  You have a limited time in which to report check fraud.
  • Put clear tape over important fields when mailing a check
  • Do not leave blank spaces on payee or amount lines
  • Have new checks delivered to your bank if possible so they are not sitting in your unattended mailbox

Businesses are highly susceptible to massive check fraud via check washing, because the balances in their accounts tend to be higher and more vulnerable. This simple change from regular checks to high security checks can drastically reduce your risk of check washing and check fraud.

John Sileo is CEO of The Sileo Group, and a  keynote speaker on cyber security, identity theft and business fraud prevention. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

Business Killers: Identity Theft and Data Breach Protection FREE WEBINAR

, , , ,

Business Killers: Identity Theft and Data Breach Protection Webinar on November 10

 

On November 10, I will host an interactive webinar sponsored by Deluxe that will explore how small businesses can protect themselves from identity theft. As someone who lost more than $300,000 and my small business to identity theft, this is a topic I care about deeply. In addition to delivering keynote speeches at conferences, I also provide consulting and guidance to organizations like the Federal Trade Commission, Pfizer and the Department of Defense on how to best protect the sensitive data inside of their organizations.

Register now for tomorrow’s webinar.

During this multi-part webinar, I will provide simple, actionable tools and advice to help small businesses protect their data and retain information privacy. I’ll also explain how the information economy has shifted the competitive landscape and increased our data exposure. Attendees will learn the following:

  • The new reality: information does not equal power
  • How to think like a spy and apply critical thinking to the power equation
  • Manipulation triggers thieves use against your employees and defense techniques
  • Interrogation tools to uncover fraud before it erodes your profits and net worth
  • Fraud hotspot best practices
  • Trends in data theft
  • Holiday identity theft prevention tips

Sign up now and make sure that your business doesn’t experience the losses that mine did.

John Sileo, the award-winning author of Privacy Means Profit, is a keynote speaker on identity theft, data security, social media exposureand weapons of influence. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Homeland Security, Blue Cross, the FDIC and hundreds of corporations, organizations and associations of all sizes. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.