Stolen Personal Checks
What to do if your Checks are Stolen
Blank checks are very attractive to identity thieves even though they have become less common in recent
There are several reasons:
- Credit and debit cards have become more popular for their convenience.
- Credit card companies offer incentives to use them, in the form of cash backs and other bonus schemes, that
checks do not offer.
- Electronic funds transfers, often automated, are an easier way to pay bills.
- Checks are manually processed, which incurs bank handling charges.
- Checks in some places incur fees and taxes (e.g. stamp duty) carried over from the past but not applied to
more recent payment methods.
- Checks are less secure than other forms of payment and therefore less readily accepted.
- Checks can take some time to clear.
However, checks are still widely used, and many people still have a check book as a means of payment as a backup
to use in some circumstances. For example, rather than give your child cash to take to school to pay for a day
trip, it can be safer to send them off with a crossed check that is of no use to anyone other than the intended
An identity thief in possession of your check book, and some form of proof of identity in your name that he has
also stolen from you, is all set to go on a buying spree at your expense. With enough practice he will probably be
able to forge a sufficiently passable signature to get by at a busy shop, especially if it just has to match the
faded one on your stolen credit card, for example. Provided he acts in a credible manner, and chooses businesses
that still do accept checks, your bank account will soon be cleaned out.
Even if your credit card has been cancelled, it can still be useful to a check thief to use as proof of identity
because the card is not actually used. Retailers who accept cards as proof of identity may just note down the card
number as a way to follow you up if there is a problem, and compare the signature. A card bearing your photograph
is, of course, more difficult to use in this way.
It is not uncommon for a thief to leave you with your check book but to just tear out a few checks from further
down the book. This can happen if the thief only gets possession of your check book briefly. You are unlikely to
notice. If the thief is taking other things at the same time and you detect the theft, you will put your effort
into canceling missing credit cards, or dealing with whatever else has been stolen, but you may ignore doing
anything about your checks because your check book is still there. The thief may wait a month or so before using
these stolen checks, after the heat has died down. You may not even immediately notice several spaced out
transactions for modest amounts coming out of your bank account.
If you believe you have lost your check book, or any individual blank checks, you should report this immediately
to your bank, and put a stop on these checks. There may be a bank fee to do this, which is a further reason to make
sure your checks are kept secure at all times.