While most of us are using our debit or credit cards to buy what we need, every now and then, we've got to bust out the old paper check. But just like plastic, paying with checks can expose you to crooks and cons trying to steal your money and your identity. So, Jimmy Rhoades sat down with Frank Abagnale Jr. - the former trickiest conman of them all - to find out what you can do to protect yourself and your checks from the bad guys.
1. Protect Your Personal Info
Your check's background might change every so often, but it'll always have your name and address already printed on it. So, when you hand a check over, you're handing over valuable information that could potentially be found by a crook.
Make sure you have a trusted app or service that keeps an eye on your identity. That way, you can be notified of any strange transactions under your name and easily flag any activity that you didn't authorize.
2. Protect Your Banking Info
Beware of anything that requires your bank's routing and account numbers. Once a crook has access to these, they also have access to your money. Be sure to verify any store, site, or service that asks you for your routing or account number for payment. And after making a check transaction, be sure to keep an eye on your accounts for the next few days, to make sure that only what you authorized has gone through.
And one smart tip you can follow online: Make sure to look for an "s" after the "http" you see at the beginning of a web link. This means that the site is secure and will protect your information. And if you do see any strange transactions on your account, cry foul - your bank will have to deal with the liability - but don't wait too long, or you might miss your window for getting help.
3. Be Smart About Your Signature
Sneaky check thieves can sometimes use your signature to open an account of their own. You can protect your signature by signing in cursive - print is much easier to be forged by a thief - and don't sign your name in a way that's easy to read. The easier your signature is to read, the easier it is for crooks to copy.
You can also protect yourself with an anti-check washing pen. Check washing is when thieves use liquids to erase ink from paper, meaning they can wash off your check's info and put down their own. But there are pens that use inks that don't wash or fade, helping keep your documents a little more secure. You can pick up a check fraud prevention pen from any office supply store, like this pack of 12 at Office Depot, going for around $23. And head here for more tips on how you can keep your signature safe.
WEB BONUS: Even with his fame, Frank Abagnale Jr. refuses to open a Facebook account. Why? Find out his answer in this video exclusive!
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