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Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:35 pm
by fsrph
I saw another thread viewtopic.php?f=2&t=228799 about a retirement account being stolen by identity theft and one response (below) said not to use checks.

"DO NOT use personal checks, if you can help it. Checks contain your bank account number, your address, and your bank routing number. That's a TON of data for crooks to use. I use bank bill-pay to write electronic checks that the bank prints / mails, and they use intermediary account #'s and routing #'s, to pay. That's a lot more secure than writing personal checks."


I've always used (and still do) use paper checks to pay some bills. In this electronic age, are paper checks still as safe as they always were? The checks contain your bank account number, routing number, name, address, etc. All prime info for someone looking to steal your identity. I mostly concerned about using checks for "trusted strangers". I have property out of state and when I pay for services (landscaping, service trades) I often pay by check even tho I have no idea how honest the person may be. Some of them do not accept credit cards that's why I use checks or even send cash.


Francis

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:38 pm
by bltkmt
I am curious about this as well. I never use them, but DW still does.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:42 pm
by ThriftyPhD
We write very few checks. Many of the situations where we need to write a check, we do it through online bill pay, and the bank mails a check off to them on our behalf (if they're not already a merchant set up for electronic payment). Saves on the cost of a stamp, cost of the check, and cost of the envelope.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:51 pm
by Yankuba
Fraudsters won't take the information from a check and steal your identity. They will make counterfeit checks and buy things drawn on your account. Or they will order legit checkbooks with your name, address, routing number and account number.

The USA is the last modern nation to use checks. Here is a good article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... per-checks

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:54 pm
by whodidntante
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:51 pm
Fraudsters won't take the information from a check and steal your identity. They will make counterfeit checks and buy things drawn on your account. Or they will order legit checkbooks with your name, address, routing number and account number.

The USA is the last modern nation to use checks. Here is a good article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... per-checks
What I found interesting there is how popular debit cards are. I only use mine at an ATM.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:01 pm
by Yankuba
whodidntante wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:54 pm
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:51 pm
Fraudsters won't take the information from a check and steal your identity. They will make counterfeit checks and buy things drawn on your account. Or they will order legit checkbooks with your name, address, routing number and account number.

The USA is the last modern nation to use checks. Here is a good article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... per-checks
What I found interesting there is how popular debit cards are. I only use mine at an ATM.
I never used my debit card (other than the ATM) either. Not sure why anyone would use one over a credit card.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:10 pm
by Ged
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:01 pm
I never used my debit card (other than the ATM) either. Not sure why anyone would use one over a credit card.
The main logic I've heard is that some people have a severe allergy to debt of any kind.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:32 pm
by littlebird
In their favor, the laws regarding check fraud are long established, uniform, and favorable to the check-writer/account owner.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:34 pm
by SimonJester
Your bank, and multiple federal laws protect you in the case of check fraud. As long as you catch said fraud and report it to your bank in a timely manner you are covered.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:36 pm
by Toons
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:01 pm
whodidntante wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:54 pm
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:51 pm
Fraudsters won't take the information from a check and steal your identity. They will make counterfeit checks and buy things drawn on your account. Or they will order legit checkbooks with your name, address, routing number and account number.

The USA is the last modern nation to use checks. Here is a good article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... per-checks
What I found interesting there is how popular debit cards are. I only use mine at an ATM.
I never used my debit card (other than the ATM) either. Not sure why anyone would use one over a credit card.

Cashback :happy

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:49 pm
by jebmke
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:51 pm
The USA is the last modern nation to use checks.
And we view as progress, taking pictures of checks and uploading them for deposit.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:06 pm
by flamesabers
fsrph wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:35 pm
I've always used (and still do) use paper checks to pay some bills. In this electronic age, are paper checks still as safe as they always were? The checks contain your bank account number, routing number, name, address, etc. All prime info for someone looking to steal your identity. I mostly concerned about using checks for "trusted strangers". I have property out of state and when I pay for services (landscaping, service trades) I often pay by check even tho I have no idea how honest the person may be. Some of them do not accept credit cards that's why I use checks or even send cash.
One way to minimize the fallout is to use a secondary checking account (at a separate bank) that doesn't have an excess of money in it to pay your "trusted strangers." If one of these people turns out to be a thief, at least the bulk of your cash won't be in danger. Alternatively, using online bill pay is an excellent way to protect yourself from fraud.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:14 pm
by ChrisC
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:51 pm
Fraudsters won't take the information from a check and steal your identity. They will make counterfeit checks and buy things drawn on your account. Or they will order legit checkbooks with your name, address, routing number and account number.

The USA is the last modern nation to use checks. Here is a good article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... per-checks
Yep, that's exactly what happened to me a few years ago. Fraudster took our account information, and ordered checks with my account information, and cashed or negotiated 3 checks for $20K. I forgot how we caught the discrepancy -- but we caught it a day after all 3 were negotiated. Credit union restored the funds in my account, opened up a fraud investigation (and I didn't keep track of the investigations), we closed our checking and savings accounts with credit union and later reopened new ones, and my accounts are now password protected -- if I withdraw money or negotiate a check at a branch, the teller asks for my password, if I make a telephone inquiry, the credit union rep asked for my password. Funny the password protection feature only applies to me though my accounts with credit union are held jointly or in trust with my wife -- she's not password protected when she goes into a branch for an account transaction. Most of our banking is done online, except for writing out checks to local service providers who don't take credit cards or electronic payments.

We suspect that our fraudster was someone who we paid by check or a contractor/repairman who took a picture of a check that might have been lying around our desk in our den.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:14 pm
by Cheyenne
The credit card processors who "earn" 2% to 4% of every transaction would love for checks to go away.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:19 pm
by JBTX
Ged wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:10 pm
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:01 pm
I never used my debit card (other than the ATM) either. Not sure why anyone would use one over a credit card.
The main logic I've heard is that some people have a severe allergy to debt of any kind.
I use credit cards exclusively. My DW is more of an impulsive spender. If she allocates herself a few hundred a week to her checking account it helps her control her spending and knowing what the checking account balance is helps her regulate that.

As to checks I'd love for them to go away. But we occasionally need them for a couple of out of network medical providers who don't take cards, or when we used a maid service or a nanny.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:22 pm
by Northern Flicker
I often pay by check even tho I have no idea how honest the person may be.
The bigger issue is how the honest, legitimate service providers you work with will dispose of your paper checks after they deposit them digitally using a banking app and phone camera. Will they be shredded or just put whole in the curbside garbage or recycling bin? Online billpay checks are safer, as noted above.

As long as the bank account is a consumer, and not a business account, I think consumer protection laws will ensure you ultimately are made whole if there is unauthorized use of the bank account, but I think it would involve not having access to the funds while you work through the substantial headache of getting it fixed.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:39 pm
by Swansea
People who come into your home can also steal one or more of your checks. The experienced thief takes them from the bottom, so one would not notice that a check was missing for a while.
That happened twice to my elderly Mother. Fortunately the checking account was joint in her name and mine. I monitored it daily. It was immediately apparent when I saw the writing and signature that it was fraud. The bank made us whole.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:46 pm
by oldcomputerguy
How else does one pay monthly bills from merchants who do not accept Visa cards?

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:48 pm
by Cheyenne
How else does one pay monthly bills from merchants who do not accept Visa cards?
Walmart money orders cost 70 cents.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:57 pm
by Meg77
Banker here. Checks are just as safe as they ever were - moreso really as they are somewhat harder to forge now. Your name and address are public record and easy to find, and so are bank routing numbers (just google it).

There's not much anybody can do with your account number though, which is the main private piece of information you're giving up on your check. Having it doesn't mean they can go take money out of your account. Withdrawals in person require ID, wires require callbacks and other verifications, and online transfers require them to have your online login information.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:00 pm
by Spirit Rider
Yankuba wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:01 pm
I never used my debit card (other than the ATM) either. Not sure why anyone would use one over a credit card.
I don't even carry a debit card. My credit union will issue by special request an ATM only card. It cannot be used anywhere but an ATM. Everywhere else is what credit cards are for.

I pay all my bills by online bill pay, ACH and other electronic means. I only use personal checks for in person transactions where they will not accept or charge a fee for credit cards. This has been reduced to just property taxes, vehicle registration and other government services still living in the last millennium.

For friend/family transactions, I use Zelle if they have an account at a participating bank or Venmo otherwise.

You might be protected against fraud, but the money is gone first and the you have to report it. Sometimes the bank/cu are fast, sometimes not so much.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:01 pm
by PFInterest
Not at all. Didn't you see the tom hanks movie haha.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:08 pm
by BolderBoy
flamesabers wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:06 pm
Alternatively, using online bill pay is an excellent way to protect yourself from fraud.
I just looked at one of the bill pay checks that was sent out (and cashed by the correct person) - it contains my account number right on it. Add the routing number to it and presto - an ACH pull can empty the account. If there is overdraft protection on the account, the sky is the limit.

So no, bill pay isn't the solution.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:14 pm
by BolderBoy
Meg77 wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:57 pm
Banker here. Checks are just as safe as they ever were - moreso really as they are somewhat harder to forge now. Your name and address are public record and easy to find, and so are bank routing numbers (just google it).

There's not much anybody can do with your account number though, which is the main private piece of information you're giving up on your check. Having it doesn't mean they can go take money out of your account. Withdrawals in person require ID, wires require callbacks and other verifications, and online transfers require them to have your online login information.
I'm not a banker. My CU is currently investigating how an ACH pull was accomplished with essentially zero info on the pulling side. A check was apparently snitched, the routing and account number info immediately used to do the pull.

Could this be the next banking fraud frontier?

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:36 pm
by likegarden
We use checks since 1968, never had a problem. We pay the credit card account electronically from the checking account, and send money from Vanguard to that checking account. SS and pension go to the same account. I thought handling money via the internet is not so good because you have to supply passwords which malware on your computer would collect.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:38 pm
by Katietsu
Meg77 wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:57 pm

I'm not a banker. My CU is currently investigating how an ACH pull was accomplished with essentially zero info on the pulling side. A check was apparently snitched, the routing and account number info immediately used to do the pull.

Could this be the next banking fraud frontier?

Not new. Actually, probably a little more difficult than it used to be as the institution's doing the pull have put in more requirements.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:40 pm
by DrGoogle2017
I this is the banks’ problem. They need to verify the identity of the people who cash the checks. Some banks don’t cash checks from strangers perio

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:48 pm
by samsoes
BolderBoy wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:08 pm
flamesabers wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:06 pm
Alternatively, using online bill pay is an excellent way to protect yourself from fraud.
I just looked at one of the bill pay checks that was sent out (and cashed by the correct person) - it contains my account number right on it. Add the routing number to it and presto - an ACH pull can empty the account. If there is overdraft protection on the account, the sky is the limit.

So no, bill pay isn't the solution.
Some banks' bill pay services behave as you describe. Others' create an a check with an intermediate account oftentimes drawn on a different bank. That is what the OP's quote was referring to.

If your online bill pay checks (not referring to electronic payments) are debited from your account when they are cashed/presented for payment (and perhaps a check image is made available to you), then they likely contain your account information. If your account is debited immediately when you initiate the payment, it's likely processed with an intermediate account.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 7:21 am
by flamesabers
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:40 pm
I this is the banks’ problem. They need to verify the identity of the people who cash the checks. Some banks don’t cash checks from strangers perio
Banks already have an incentive to prevent check fraud: they could be the ones who have to eat the loss from a fraudulent or bogus check.

From what I've seen, banks already have stringent rules about cashing checks, especially for non-customers. Even if you're a customer, the bank probably won't let you get cash from the check unless your daily average balance in your bank account is equal to or greater than the amount you're getting back from the check.
samsoes wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:48 pm
BolderBoy wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:08 pm
flamesabers wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:06 pm
Alternatively, using online bill pay is an excellent way to protect yourself from fraud.
I just looked at one of the bill pay checks that was sent out (and cashed by the correct person) - it contains my account number right on it. Add the routing number to it and presto - an ACH pull can empty the account. If there is overdraft protection on the account, the sky is the limit.

So no, bill pay isn't the solution.
Some banks' bill pay services behave as you describe. Others' create an a check with an intermediate account oftentimes drawn on a different bank. That is what the OP's quote was referring to.

If your online bill pay checks (not referring to electronic payments) are debited from your account when they are cashed/presented for payment (and perhaps a check image is made available to you), then they likely contain your account information. If your account is debited immediately when you initiate the payment, it's likely processed with an intermediate account.
Yes, with the bill pay I used at my bank my account gets debited immediately.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 10:01 am
by Hat
This is how I view it when you give someone a check:
1. Here is my name.
2. Here is my address.
3. Here is where I bank.
4. Here is my account number with my money in it.
5. Here is how to forge my signature.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:50 am
by DrGoogle2017
flamesabers wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 7:21 am
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:40 pm
I this is the banks’ problem. They need to verify the identity of the people who cash the checks. Some banks don’t cash checks from strangers perio
Banks already have an incentive to prevent check fraud: they could be the ones who have to eat the loss from a fraudulent or bogus check.

From what I've seen, banks already have stringent rules about cashing checks, especially for non-customers. Even if you're a customer, the bank probably won't let you get cash from the check unless your daily average balance in your bank account is equal to or greater than the amount you're getting back from the check.
samsoes wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:48 pm
BolderBoy wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:08 pm
flamesabers wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:06 pm
Alternatively, using online bill pay is an excellent way to protect yourself from fraud.
I just looked at one of the bill pay checks that was sent out (and cashed by the correct person) - it contains my account number right on it. Add the routing number to it and presto - an ACH pull can empty the account. If there is overdraft protection on the account, the sky is the limit.

So no, bill pay isn't the solution.
Some banks' bill pay services behave as you describe. Others' create an a check with an intermediate account oftentimes drawn on a different bank. That is what the OP's quote was referring to.

If your online bill pay checks (not referring to electronic payments) are debited from your account when they are cashed/presented for payment (and perhaps a check image is made available to you), then they likely contain your account information. If your account is debited immediately when you initiate the payment, it's likely processed with an intermediate account.
Yes, with the bill pay I used at my bank my account gets debited immediately.
I used to work at a bank when I was teenager. They do put a hold on a personal check until the check is cleared.

Re: Paper checks, how safe are they?

Posted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:51 am
by DrGoogle2017
Hat wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 10:01 am
This is how I view it when you give someone a check:
1. Here is my name.
2. Here is my address.
3. Here is where I bank.
4. Here is my account number with my money in it.
5. Here is how to forge my signature.
Let’s not be too paranoid shall we, otherwise we go back to bartering for goods and services.