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Learn to Recognize and Protect Yourself from Check Fraud

It's important to know how to spot the red flags and avoid any issues in the event you ever find yourself facing a possible check scam. While many people and businesses have moved away from using checks, there are times that you will have to write a check. Like most individuals and businesses, you cannot afford to lose a large sum of money to fraud. You'll want to read-on to learn how to protect yourself and prevent fraudsters from gaining access to your money. 

It's also good to know how tap to pay and EMV chip enabled debit cards offer greater security, and may be a better option for most of your daily transactions.


In a fake check scam, a person you don’t know asks you to deposit a check. It’s usually for more than they owe you, and it’s sometimes for several thousand dollars. They tell you to send some of the money back to them or to another person. They always have a good story to explain why you can’t keep all the money. They might say they need you to cover taxes or fees for a prize, to buy supplies for a job, to send back money they overpaid, or something else.

These scams work because fake checks generally look just like real checks. They are often printed with the names and addresses of legitimate financial institutions. In fact, they may even be real checks written on bank accounts that belong to someone whose identity has been stolen. It can take weeks for a bank to conduct an investigation and determine that fraud has in fact occurred.

Regulations require banks to disclose their policy on availability of deposited funds, which is usually the within the first or second business day after the funds are received. Longer delays may apply for larger deposits, an overdrawn account, or other reasons that your bank discloses (Ref. Kleberg Bank Funds Disclosure). When the funds are made available in your account, the check may appear to be “cleared,” but that doesn’t mean the check is good. Once fraud is discovered, the scammer has any money you sent, and you’re stuck paying the money for a returned check back to the bank.

First, never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, cryptocurrency, or to wire money to anyone who asks. Many scammers demand that you buy gift cards and send them the PIN numbers, buy cryptocurrency and transfer it to them, or send money through wire transfer services. Once you do, it is like you have given them cash that is impossible to get it back. Second, ignore any offers asking you to pay for a prize. If you have really won a free prize, you shouldn’t have to pay to receive it. Lastly, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price. In these cases, you can almost guarantee it is a scam.


Another example of check fraud is check washing. This is when criminals steal paper checks sent through the mail by fishing them out of USPS mailboxes, taking them from your personal or business mailbox, robbing postal workers, or stealing them from your home, business, or vehicle. Once they are in possession of your check, they use special chemicals to “wash” the check. They now have a blank check and can write it for any amount and make themselves the payee. Then, they deposit the check and are able to steal money from your account. If you have mailed a check that was paid, but the recipient never received it, you may be a check washing victim.

You can protect yourself by ensuring that you keep your check stock in a secure location, such as a safe. It is also important to regularly review your account activity, either online or using the mobile app, and check bank statements for errors. If you have to write a check, use a pen with indelible black ink so it is more difficult to wash your check. You will also want to avoid leaving blank spaces in the payee or amount spaces. Lastly, setting up ACH payments or other electronic or mobile payments is a good way to protect yourself from check fraud.


There are many instances when using your debit card for purchases makes more sense. With the rise of EMV chip and tap to pay technology, you may wonder about the security of these payment methods. Tap to pay, also known as contactless payments, allows you to complete transactions without physically swiping or inserting your credit or debit card at a payment terminal. These payment types are not only convenient, but also secure and reliable. This technology works by the card and payment terminal communicating the transaction information via a random, one-time encrypted number. Because transaction data from tap to pay is so unique, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to skim your device for enough information to commit any sort of fraudulent activity.

Debit cards that use EMV chip technology are similar. When you use them for an in-store payment, you insert your debit card into a chip reader at the point-of-sale (POS) terminal. The EMV chip then generates a unique transaction code that can never be used again (by anyone else). These transaction codes prevent EMV debit cards from being compromised. Even if they fall into the wrong hands, fraudulent cards are unable to generate the proper codes.

Kleberg Bank’s new Visa debit cards feature the convenience of tap to pay technology and are also EMV chip-enabled, so you can feel secure making everyday debit card purchases. LEARN MORE

Of course, keeping your online information safe through secure passwords and frequent activity monitoring is always a good idea. To become more cyber security savvy, visit: Cyber Security Awareness | Kleberg Bank | Corpus Christi & Kingsville, TX