Skip to Content
Home Blog Don't Be Fooled: Recognize the Signs of Check Fraud and How to Combat It

Don't Be Fooled: Recognize the Signs of Check Fraud and How to Combat It

Don't Be Fooled: Recognize the Signs of Check Fraud and How to Combat It

Don't Be Fooled: Recognize the Signs of Check Fraud and How to Combat It

Check fraud continues to be a pervasive threat in today's digital landscape, with perpetrators employing increasingly sophisticated tactics to deceive individuals and businesses alike. Recognizing the signs of check fraud is paramount to protecting your finances and avoiding potentially devastating losses. We'll explore common red flags and proactive measures you can take to stay one step ahead of fraudsters.

Understanding Check Fraud

Before exploring the signs of check fraud, it's essential to understand the various forms it can take:

  • Counterfeit Checks: Fraudsters create counterfeit checks that closely resemble legitimate ones, often using advanced printing techniques and stolen bank information.
  • Check Alteration: Criminals intercept legitimate checks and alter crucial details such as the payee’s name, amount, or date to redirect funds to their accounts.
  • Identity Theft: By stealing personal information such as bank account numbers and signatures, fraudsters forge checks in someone else's name, exploiting unsuspecting victims.
  • Mules for Deposits: At times mules, unsuspecting individuals who are bribed into help the fraudsters deposit your altered checks, are used to deposit or cash a fraudulent check who then sends a portion of the funds back or purchases specific merchandise or gift cards.

Recognizing the Signs

It is always important to be able to recognize the signs of check fraud so they can be delt with in a swift manner. Below is list of things all consumers need to be aware of:

  • Unfamiliar Transactions: Keep a close eye on your bank statements and online transaction history for any unauthorized or unfamiliar activity. Even small, seemingly insignificant transactions could be indicative of fraud.
  • Altered Checks: Examine your check images for any signs of alteration, such as changes to the payee’s name or the amount written. Look for discrepancies in handwriting or alterations.
  • Unexpected Checkbooks: If you receive checkbooks or individual checks in the mail from unknown sources, especially if you didn't request them, it could be a warning sign of fraudulent activity.
  • Missing or Stolen Checks: If your checkbooks go missing or are stolen, act swiftly to report the incident to us and monitor your accounts for any suspicious transactions. 
  • Stolen Check Endorsements: You can look at the endorsement on the back of checks you have written to see if the person depositing your check seems to match who you wrote the check to. The check could have been stolen and deposited somewhere else.
  • Forgery Indicators: Be vigilant for signs of forgery, such as irregularities in signatures or handwriting that don't match your own. Review your transactions in your statement or online and keep track of the checks you have written so a check that you did not write is more obvious.
  • Pressure Tactics: Beware of anyone pressuring you to cash a check quickly or urging you to send money back immediately, especially if it's from an unfamiliar source. Fraudsters often use high-pressure tactics to exploit victims' sense of urgency.
  • Unsolicited Offers: Exercise caution when receiving unsolicited offers or requests for personal or financial information, especially if they involve sending or receiving checks. Verify the legitimacy of the sender before taking any action.

Taking Action

If you suspect that you've encountered check fraud, it's crucial to take immediate action:

  • Contact Us – Report the suspicious activity to us as soon as possible. First Community Bank and Trust can help investigate the matter and take steps to protect your accounts from further unauthorized transactions.
  • File a Report - Report the incident to law enforcement and file a complaint with the appropriate regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your state's Attorney General's office.
  • Document Everything – Keep detailed records of all communications, transactions, and evidence related to the suspected fraud. This information will be invaluable when reporting the incident and seeking restitution.
  • Know Your Check Range – It is always a good idea to know what check number ranges you have in your checkbook for stop payment reasons if a checkbook is lost or stolen.

What Can Consumers do to Combat Check Fraud?

It’s important to note that we are all in this together. You, the consumer, are the first line of defense against check fraud and potential account fraud. First Community Bank and Trust offers defense grade account security for all online banking services, but being negligent with checks and not paying attention to your accounts is the leading cause of fraud.

By staying informed and vigilant, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to check fraud and protect your hard-earned money from unscrupulous individuals. Remember to regularly monitor your accounts, scrutinize your checks for any signs of tampering, and exercise caution when dealing with unfamiliar transactions or requests. By recognizing the signs of check fraud early on and taking swift action, you can safeguard your finances and maintain peace of mind in an increasingly digital world.

So, what can you do? First and foremost, “Don’t write checks” if you don’t have to. There are many other solutions available to send money to family, friends or to pay bills. All of them are more secure than writing and mailing a check. The solutions offered by First Community Bank and Trust are as follows:

  • Keep track of transactions using online banking services, First eBanc and First eBanc Mobile – The best way to deter fraud is to pay attention. Logging into either of these online banking services regularly will help you keep a pulse on your banking activity.
  • Send money using Zelle – Money sent to family and friends using Zelle is delivered in minutes and directly deposited into the recipient’s account. It’s safer and it’s quicker than a check. It’s 2024 and there is a really good chance the person you’re paying has a way to accept an electronic payment.
  • Pay bills with First ePay – Money you owe to your vendors can be paid directly from our online banking services. You simply set up your billers, make or schedule payments and your bills are securely paid on time. Many billers even offer electronic bills, so you’ll get notified electronically that a bill is due and there is nothing sent in the mail that can be stolen by fraudsters.
  • Monitor your activity with First eAlerts – When you sign up for online alerts, each time a credit or debit hits your account, or when you make purchases with your FCBT Debit MasterCard, you’ll receive a text alert notifying you of the transaction in real time. There are over 10 different alerts available to sign up for. If you don’t recognize a transaction, you can alert the bank immediately. If you only view your statement once a month, like in the olden days, you may have to wait 30 days before you see any fraudulent transactions.
  • Monitor Debit MasterCard activity with My Cards – Receive more detailed alerts when you make purchases with your Debit MasterCard. Same as with First eAlerts, if you see a transaction that is not yours, you can immediately deal with it and protect your accounts.
  • If you must write a check, do the following – Hand deliver checks that you write, if possible; Mail items from a post office building and not a mailbox, if possible; Keep a check register so that you know who you wrote checks to and for how much.

If you are a business, what else can you do?

Businesses need to be diligent as well. They have further risks of being a target, may send checks more often to vendors or have employees that may be not as honest as once thought. So, what can they do?

  • Businesses should monitor their accounts using First eBiz and First eBiz Mobile – There are multiple versions of First eBiz and First eBiz Mobile that fit the needs of the business. It offers 24/7 access to your accounts to pay attention to all activity. You lock up your businesses every night and many use surveillance. Why not lock up your accounts and monitor them the same way?
  • Businesses should use First eAlerts – When there is activity on your account, you’ll receive a text alert notifying you of the transaction in real time. There are over 10 different alerts available to sign up for. If you don’t recognize a transaction, you can alert the bank immediately.
  • Businesses should use Positive Pay – Positive Pay is a solution where businesses can upload a file containing information for checks sent that are to be paid. If a check is presented to the bank that is not in the list of checks uploaded (such as a fraudulent check), the business owner is sent a notification asking to make a decision on that check to pay or deny, while there is still time to legally return it to the originating bank. It’s peace of mind for any business to have this level of control to approve or deny check payments.
  • Businesses should use ACH Services – Rather than continuing to write checks to pay vendors or employees, a business can set up ACH services through the bank’s online banking services and securely pay vendors and employees.

We’re all in this together!

First Community Bank and Trust can’t stress enough that we are all in this together! FCBT offers state of the art online banking services with defense level encryption to protect your accounts and money. But it’s also necessary for each of our customers to do their part in protecting their accounts. Migrating away from check writing, signing up for online banking services, using electronic means to move money and using alerts to stay on top of transaction activity is increasingly important. If we work together, we can deter fraudsters from committing fraudulent activity.


About First Community Bank and Trust
First Community Bank and Trust is a privately-owned bank. Established in 1916 First Community Bank and Trust has been serving Beecher, IL, Peotone, IL and the surrounding communities for over 108 years. Our commitment to providing the best banking products and services is matched only by our outstanding customer service. We offer traditional community banking services, including mortgage, consumer, and commercial lending, as well as state of the art electronic banking services.

Press Contact:
Steve Koehn, Senior Vice President
First Community Bank and Trust
(708) 946-2246