Recently, OASBO printed checks. We dropped all the checks in a USPS blue box outside of the post office. The next week, I noted the bank made a check reversal on our account. I investigated the original check and discovered it was altered. Fortunately, I submitted a positive pay file to the bank when I printed those checks. The bank reversed the check because the check payee did not match the file I uploaded. Our positive pay system prevented a loss.
Check theft is a serious financial threat that individuals and businesses should be vigilant about. The best way to avoid mail theft is to not send a check.
I strongly encourage your organization to authorize OASBO to use your account information to remit an ACH payment instead of a check. The OASBO ACH payment form should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The ACH form is available by clicking on this link.
Understanding Check Theft
Check theft encompasses several methods used by criminals to steal checks and use them fraudulently. Some common forms of check theft include:
1. Mail Theft: Thieves may steal checks from your incoming or outgoing mail, taking advantage of unsecured mailboxes or postal service vulnerabilities.
2. Stolen Checkbooks: Criminals may physically steal your checkbook from your home, office, or vehicle.
3. Check Washing: Thieves use chemicals to erase or alter the information on a legitimate check, such as the payee's name or the amount, before cashing or depositing it.
4. Online Theft: Cybercriminals can access your online banking accounts to steal check images and make unauthorized payments.
Consequences of Check Theft
The consequences of falling victim to check theft can be both financial and emotional:
1. Financial Loss: You may suffer monetary losses due to stolen checks, unauthorized withdrawals, or fraudulent payments.
2. Identity Theft: Check theft can lead to identity theft if personal information on your checks is compromised.
3. Legal Troubles: If fraudulent checks are issued in your name, you could face legal issues or be held responsible for the stolen funds.
4. Emotional Distress: Dealing with check theft can be emotionally distressing, causing anxiety, frustration, and stress.
5. Staff Productivity: Staff are spending time working with the bank to stop payments, posting the crime to USPS and contacting the payees to communicate the check theft. Not to mention, the time that takes to reissue payment again.
Preventing Check Theft
To safeguard against check theft, consider implementing these preventive measures:
1. Secure Your Mail: Use a locked mailbox or consider a P.O. box to protect incoming and outgoing mail from theft. If you do print checks, drop off the checks inside of the post office, not in the blue outside USPS boxes. Criminals are gaining access to the outside boxes and stealing all the mail.
2. Keep Checkbooks Secure: Store your checkbooks in a secure location at home, the office, or in your vehicle. Don't leave them in plain sight.
3. Use Secure Checks: Order checks with security features such as microprinting, watermarks, and chemical reactivity to deter potential thieves.
4. Monitor Your Accounts: Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious or unauthorized transactions.
5. Online Banking Security: Protect your online banking credentials with strong, unique passwords, and enable two-factor authentication where possible.
6. Shred Unneeded Documents: Shred any documents containing sensitive financial information before disposing of them.
7. Report Stolen Checks: If your checks are stolen, report the incident to your bank, the police, and the postal service promptly. Since OASBO did not have a financial loss, we did not report the check theft to the police. Since mail theft is a crime, I reported the mail theft on the USPS website.
8. Consider Electronic Payments: Adopt the best practice by implementing payment methods to reduce your reliance on paper checks. OASBO encourages your school district organization to send your registration or membership payments via ACH payments to OASBO instead of checks. Please send your organization’s ACH form to email@example.com. We will complete the form and send it back to your district for processing.
9. Educate Yourself: Stay informed about current scams and fraud tactics to recognize potential threats. Register for the OASBO’s Cyber Security Symposium.
10. Educate Others: Educate family members or employees about the importance of check theft prevention. Review your bank’s website for fraud articles/resources.
Check theft poses a real threat to your financial security, but with proactive measures and awareness, you can significantly reduce the risk. If you have any questions about this, please contact Debbie Trzeciak, OASBO CFO, firstname.lastname@example.org