Avoid Mailed Check Theft and Fraud
Consumers and business operators may want to consider a new rule of thumb: do not send checks through the mail (when possible). While paying bills through the mail by check has long been a financial norm in America, with the rise of fraud and mail theft, the safest option may be NOT to mail checks. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, criminals have been increasingly targeting the U.S. Mail to commit check fraud, according to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
There has been a significant increase in mail-theft complaints, with the targets of mail theft often being checks, according to FinCEN. Criminals committing mail theft-related check fraud generally target the U.S. Mail in order to steal several types of checks, for example:
- personal checks
- tax refund checks
- checks related to government assistance programs, such as Social Security payments and unemployment benefits
- business checks
Criminals will generally steal all types of checks in the U.S. Mail as part of a mail theft scheme, but business checks may be more valuable because business accounts are often well-funded, and it may take longer for the victim to notice the fraud. There have even been cases of Postal Service employees stealing checks at USPS sorting and distribution facilities. However, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), mail theft-related check fraud is increasingly committed by non-USPS employees, ranging from individual fraudsters to organized criminal groups.
What can you do instead of mailing checks?
If you are paying utility bills, making payments for loans, fees, tuition or other costs, most payees have an online portal allowing you to make payments online. This may require you to register and set up your account online. You should contact your payee directly by phone if you need help.
If there are still checks you need to send through the U.S. Mail, there are measures you can take to decrease the risk of mail theft and fraud.
- Deposit mail before the last pickup: Deposit your outgoing mail in blue collection boxes before the last pickup, or better yet, go inside your local post office.
- Retrieve mail frequently: Never leave your mail in your mailbox overnight.
- Hold mail at the post office: If you’re going on vacation, have your mail held at the post office or have it picked up by a friend or neighbor.
- Use regular envelopes: Mail checks in plain envelopes. Avoid provided return envelopes with company names, as these tend to be easy targets.
- Sign checks with a gel pen: If checks become stolen, ballpoint pen ink is easier to remove than gel pen ink. Gel pen ink can make it more difficult to alter a check.
To learn more about how to deal with fraud and identity theft, visit the Cadence Fraud & Security Center.
This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.