Understanding Check Fraud
Check fraud is one of the leading types of payment related fraud. Technology has made it increasingly easy for criminals, either independently or in organized groups, to create increasingly realistic counterfeit and fictitious checks as well as false identification that can be used to defraud individuals and financial institutions.
What is check fraud?
Fraud occurs when a person intentionally or deliberately acts to deprive another person (or entity) of money using deceptive or unfair means. Check fraud is simply using checks to commit fraud.
Among the types of check fraud are:
- Forged Signature – signing a check without authorization or endorsing a check not payable to the endorser
- Theft – stealing checks to use for fraudulent purposes Paper hanging – writing checks on closed accounts or ordering and, then, writing checks on closed accounts
- Paper hanging – writing checks on closed accounts
- Check kiting – intentionally gaining access to funds deposited in one account before the bank collects them from another
- Washing – using chemicals to remove information from a check
- Counterfeiting – illegally printing checks using information from the victim’s account
What are some things I should do if I believe I have been the victim of check fraud?
While the events are still fresh in your memory, write down the circumstances surrounding the fraud and collect documents and information that could help when to report and investigate the fraud.
Documents and information to collect and keep include:
- Names, titles, or positions used by the fraudsters.
- Account information, statements, trade confirmations, disclosures, and sales materials.
- Records of other forms of payment including cancelled checks or receipts for wire transfers, money orders, or prepaid cards.
- Any correspondence received, including envelopes.
- Police report, when filed
How do I report check fraud to M&T?
If you believe that you have been a victim of check fraud, please notify M&T as soon as possible by calling the Telephone Contact Center or visiting a branch! If fraud has occurred and there is a need to dispute a transaction, you will be directed to your nearest M&T branch location.
Be sure to have all relevant information ready to share with your M&T Banker.
You can pre-arrange an appointment by clicking the link below.
Once you arrive at a branch your Banker will verify your identity and you will be asked to help complete required paperwork, including an Affidavit of Forgery, which will be signed and notarized.
How can I help prevent check fraud?
The most important factor in check fraud is a check, and it’s up to consumers to do everything in their power to keep their checks—and the information on those checks—safe from prying eyes.
Check fraud is an unfortunate and all-too-common occurrence. That’s why it’s critical to take the issue seriously. Anything less and you’re all too vulnerable to check fraud—and all the negative fallout that may go with it.
Take these steps to help keep checks and account information secure:
- Protect your blank check stock – Because checks are relatively easy to reproduce, strive to protect your account number, routing number, and any other information a thief would need to print a fake check. Keep important documents, including checks and bank statements, locked up.
- Monitor your bank account – Regularly reconcile your bank statements to look for fraudulent transactions. Set up text alerts for checks drawn on your account.
- Protect from “check washing” – Fraudsters use chemicals and solvents to erase or alter check information. Write your check using “fraud prevention pens,” which contain ink that is more difficult to change.
- Do not leave check fields blank – Do not leave the amount or payee fields in a check empty and do not make checks out to cash. This can create an opportunity for anyone to cash the check or fill in the blanks if the check is lost or stolen.
- No checks in cars – Never leave your checkbook out in public, and especially not stored in a car. It’s just too easy for fraud artists to break into the vehicle and steal your checks.
- Avoid mailing checks at a mailbox – Thieves can steal checks from a mailbox. Always mail checks at the post office, if possible, or try to mail shortly before postal pickup.
- Never write your Social Security number on a check – It’s just too easy for check fraudsters to steal the check, get your Social Security number, and then commit identity theft.
- Use electronic payments – Electronic payments via Online Bill Payor funds transfer apps such as Zelle®or Venmo are faster and keep account numbers private.
If you provided payment information to the fraudsters, take the steps necessary to block access to your accounts and protect against identity theft. You may also want to contact one of the three national credit reporting companies and ask that it place a fraud alert on your credit file.
The credit reporting company you contact will automatically report the fraud alert to the other credit reporting companies. A fraud alert will notify potential creditors to verify your identity before extending additional credit in your name.
Placing a fraud alert is free and typically lasts up to one year or until you ask for it to be removed.
You can also request a free security freeze. A security freeze restricts access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name.
You will have to contact each credit reporting company to place a freeze. A security freeze will not be lifted unless you request it