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Sophisticated financial institutions and businesses, large and small, face a common challenge today: spotting fake checks. Fake checks can look almost exactly like original bank checks, which makes them extremely difficult to catch.
Even though electronic payments are growing around the world, checks are still being used in the U.S. today. In 2015, the average American wrote or received 38 checks (paywall) throughout the year. Unfortunately, these checks are at risk. Tens of thousands of reports are filed every year regarding fake checks. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Over the last three years, the number of complaints has steadily increased, and so have the dollars lost.”
I am the founder of an online check printing company, so I’ve seen the importance of recognizing and protecting your business from forged checks. Due to advancements in technology, fraudsters have been able to spread these fake check scams quickly. They use a number of ways to retrieve bank account and routing numbers in order to emulate real checks, such as through check-cashing businesses, or scam phone calls and emails in which they pose as the victim’s bank. Once they have the information they need, they can manipulate check-printing software to design and print checks. They can even duplicate the account holder’s signature.
In my experience, you typically have about 30 days to dispute an unauthorized check that has cleared your account, but not everyone catches these checks in time. According to the Better Business Bureau, billions of dollars on fake checks are circulated every year.
A tremendous number of people and even large companies have been known to fall victim to fake check scammers, especially those who do not pay close attention to their checking accounts and the checks being processed and cleared. I’ve found that many scammers forge checks of companies that issue a large number of checks. This is why it is essential for leaders to keep an eye on every check that has cleared in their organization’s bank account.
Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to protect your company’s finances:
Remember the signs of fraudulent checks.
There are a few ways you can tell if a check is fake:
• If the font for the account holder’s name is different than the one used for the address, it’s a fake.
• If there are no check numbers or the same number is duplicated, it’s a fake.
• Authentic checks are perforated. If the check doesn’t have any perforations, it’s a fake.
• If there are discolorations on the check, it’s highly suspicious and has probably been altered.
• If there is no authorized signature, something is definitely wrong, and it can’t be cashed in any case.
Be proactive if you believe a check is fake.
If you suspect any type of financial fraud, report it immediately to your bank or financial institution. Do not be tempted by online solicitations offering get-rich-quick schemes or easy money, and avoid any pay-to-play offers. As well, make sure you thoroughly vet the identity of anyone you’re sending money or issuing a check to.
And most importantly, if you have a check that appears to be inauthentic, don’t deposit it. Take it to your bank, and explain where you got it. Your bank will have trained experts on staff who can verify the authenticity of the check.
You might also consider utilizing innovative technologies that help you better manage your company’s checks. You can speak to your bank to ask which software they recommend. If you write only a handful of checks per month, you won’t need software to keep track of it. Instead, go through your bank statement regularly so you have a wide enough time frame to promptly dispute any unauthorized checks that clear.
The last thing you want is for forged or fraudulent checks written on your bank account. We all need to protect ourselves from being victimized by scammers, and if there are steps you can take to protect your business’s finances, it makes sense to follow them.
June 13, 2019 at 09:06AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs