Guarding Against Check Forgery
Here are some tips to help you maintain security of your checks and from becoming a victim of check forgery:
- Regularly inspect your checkbook to ensure no checks are missing.
- Regularly review your checking account. Contact your financial institution immediately if you are unfamiliar with a particular transaction.
- Notify your financial institution in advance of a change in address
- Void incorrect checks.
- Destroy carbons.
- Save receipts to compare with billing statements.
- Sign each check in a consistent manner
- Have your financial institution send you new checks to your residential mailbox. It possible, have new checks sent to a post office box.
- Place out-going checks in your mailbox. Identity thieves routinely steal mail from mailboxes in an attempt to gain access to personally identifying information, checks, and account numbers.
- Leave checks in your vehicle while it is unoccupied. Checks are highly valued by thieves who burglarize vehicles.
- Pre-sign blank checks
- Denote your social security number, driver license number, or your date of birth on a check
- Give out your account number and bank routing number over the phone unless you're making a call to a company you know is reputable. If you have questions about a company, check it out with your local consumer protection office or Better Business Bureau.
What to do if someone has stolen your checks or forged your checks:
- Contact the Norman Police Department so that the theft and/or forgery are documented.
- If you realize a check(s) has been stolen, immediately call your financial institution, have the payment stopped, and close the account. Many financial institutions have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with such emergencies.
- A representative of the business that ultimately accepted a forged check will likely contact you. Be prepared to mail each business a copy of your police report if requested.
- Most financial institutions will require you to fill out some paperwork. All financial institutions and credit card companies have fraud investigators, and they will forward the appropriate documents to the appropriate law enforcement agency upon completion of their investigation.
- Although the reported loss or theft of your checks may be with the Norman Police Department, the investigation into the subsequent check forgery may be under the jurisdictional purview of another law enforcement agency. Filing your police report with the Norman Police Department is all that you need to do, unless a law enforcement officer instructs you otherwise.
- Once you have followed your financial institution’s instructions (filing a police report, completing their forms and/or Affidavit, etc.) they will, normally, reimburse your account. This will make them the victim of the financial loss that resulted after you were initially victimized by having your check stolen. If criminal charges are filed on their behalf, you may be endorsed as a witness for prosecution.
- If, after filing your report, you have reason to name a specific suspect, please call the Records Division at the Norman Police Department (405-321-1600). Request that the suspect information be added to your Offense Report.
In general, if an identity thief steals your checks or counterfeits checks from your existing bank account, stop payment, close the account, and ask your bank to notify Chex Systems, Inc. or the check verification service with which it does business. That way, retailers can be notified not to accept these checks. While no federal law limits your losses if someone uses your checks with a forged signature, or uses another type of "paper" transaction such as a demand draft, state laws may protect you. Most states hold the bank responsible for losses from such transactions. At the same time, most states require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely manner that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or consumer protection agency for more information.
You can contact major check verification companies directly for the following services:
To request that they notify retailers who use their databases not to accept your checks, call:
- TeleCheck at 1-800-710-9898 or 1-800-927-0188
- Certegy, Inc. (previously Equifax Check Systems) at 1-800-437-5120
To find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name, call:
- SCAN: 1-800-262-7771
If your checks are rejected by a merchant, it may be because an identity thief is using the Magnetic Information Character Recognition (MICR) code (the numbers at the bottom of checks), your driver's license number, or another identification number. The merchant who rejects your check should give you its check verification company contact information so you can find out what information the thief is using. If you find that the thief is using your MICR code, ask your bank to close your checking account, and open a new one. If you discover that the thief is using your driver's license number or some other identification number, work with your DMV or other identification issuing agency to get new identification with new numbers. Once you have taken the appropriate steps, your checks should be accepted.
- The check verification company may or may not remove the information about the MICR code or the driver's license/identification number from its database because this information may help prevent the thief from continuing to commit fraud.
- If the checks are being passed on a new account, contact the bank to close the account. Also contact Chex Systems, Inc. to review your consumer report to make sure that no other bank accounts have been opened in your name.
- Dispute any bad checks passed in your name with merchants so they don't start any collections actions against you.