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4th Day: Holiday Shopping Quiz – Is Credit or Debit Smarter?

Holiday Security Tips: On the fourth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 4 pay solutions!

True or False?

When you use a debit card, funds are more secure because they are drawn directly from your bank.

False.  While it’s true that funds are drawn directly from your bank, it actually makes it harder to get the money reimbursed while the issue is being resolved if fraud does occur.

 You can receive a reimbursement for debit card fraud up to a year later.

False.  Debit cards generally only reimburse fraudulent purchases if you catch them within 60 days.

 It is safer to use a credit card than a debit card.

True.  When you use a credit card, nothing is withdrawn from your bank account immediately. Pending transactions can take several days to clear. In addition, credit cards uniformly give you more protection than debit cards and your maximum liability is capped at $50.

All checks are created equal.

False.  If you have to pay by check, make sure you use high security checks. Security checks should include visible fibers, true watermarking, full-feature hologram (like on credit cards) and protection against multiple chemical alteration agents (not just fingernail polish remover).  This makes it much harder for identity thieves to “wash” your checks with acetone and put their own names in the “pay to” field. Also, sign your checks with a gel-based pen that cannot be easily dissolved.

If you failed this quiz, don’t worry, as long as you remember the answers when you’re shopping!  Wishing you straight A’s this holiday season! On the fifth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Check washing & check fraud can dirty your spring cleaning

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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.