Pay bills by paper check? Check your bank statements carefully
Mail theft is becoming a real problem. Thieves are stealing mail out of the blue USPS drop boxes, searching for checks and either check-washing the payee name and amount or creating an entirely new check using the account information lifted from the stolen check.
This happened to BOTH of my parents recently. Mom discovered something was amiss when she received an automated call from the gas company stating she would be disconnected for nonpayment. (She’s never missed a payment in 17 years!) Her check never made it to the gas company. In fact it was never cashed, but someone had created and fraudulently cashed two checks totaling $225.00 using her account information printed on a fake check and then depositing it via mobile deposit. My step-dad paid the water bill out of his account and a similar thing occurred in his account a couple of weeks later.
He had dropped the mail in the big blue USPS mailbox outside their small town post office in mid-May. This was one of the new theft deterrent mailboxes. Guess not!
It’s been a real mess to clean up. These folks are pretty clever.
The thieves printed realistic checks using my parent’s address information, routing and account numbers.
Check numbers were just a bit higher than the actual stolen check. For example, the gas company check was number 1038. The thief made new checks with numbers 1050 and 1051.
Amounts were $100 to $125 and deposited via mobile deposit. Why? Because many banks place an automatic hold on any check over $200 deposited via mobile deposit.
A review of the check images clearly shows that these checks were not written by either of my parents.
I don’t write paper checks very often, but there are still instances where I do because the “convenience fees” associated with paying electronically or via credit card are simply too high.
So, what can you do?
- Take your mail inside the post office to mail.
- Monitor your bank account daily. Make sure check numbers posted match the ones you show as written.
Personally, I don’t allow any individual or company to auto-draft my checking account. Electronic deposits are fine as are electronic payments that we initiate. Most everything is charged to a credit card that is paid in full every month. Cash, or in rare instances, a PIN based transaction on my debit card, take care of the rest.
I get that some businesses charge high fees to accept electronic payments. Try bill pay services offered by your bank. It’s usually free. Many businesses will accept these payments electronically without charging you any additional fees. My electric and water providers charge a $3.95 convenience fee to pay electronically, if I pay on their website, but not if my bank sends them an electronic payment. Go figure.
I still pay one bill each month via paper check because the company charges a $20.00 convenience fee to pay via credit card. There’s also no option to pay several months in advance, either. You are required to make one payment every month. It’s to the 3rd party administrator for our COBRA dental/vision insurance. This will go away at the end of 2023.
Stay alert friends! No one will mind your money as well as you can!