Whether you are dealing with a stolen checkbook or have had a check stolen that someone else wrote to you, you may wonder what steps you need to take to ensure that you get back any funds fraudulently taken from you. The process for handling someone else cashing a check that wasn't theirs will depend on whether you're the payee or the payer. If you wrote the check, then you should contact your bank and the police for identity theft. If someone else wrote the check to you but you didn't personally cash it, then you'll usually need to reach out to the check's issuer to file a trace and hopefully get the check reissued after the investigation completes.
Contacting Your Bank About Fraud
You may have a situation where you've had your box of checks lost in the mail and stolen or where you wrote a check to a specific person but an unauthorized party cashed it. In such cases of stolen check fraud, you need to call your bank and speak with the department associated with fraud and theft. This will normally get you reimbursed for the stolen funds.
When you speak to them, you'll want to take a few actions regarding your account. First, notify them of the checks showing up on your account that you didn't personally write so that they can make a note and do an investigation into who cashed them. Second, tell them you want to stop any remaining checks from being processed in case more have been stolen.
Even if your bank doesn't suggest it, consider having your checking account closed and getting a new account for the most security. Keep in mind that you'll need to ensure you update any parties that use your bank account to pay bills or send you payments. This includes any direct deposit for your employer, automatic bill payments from utility companies, credit card companies and the like.
Notifying the Local Authorities
Whether you're the check's payer or payee, you should also reach out to the local police department since having the wrong person cash a check is a form of identity theft. In fact, your bank or check issuer might make this a requirement as part of the fraud reporting process when you call. Whether you visit the police or they come to you, be prepared with your latest statements showing the fraudulent checks coming out of your account or proving the check was mailed to you. Ask for a copy of the police report in case your bank or check issuer needs you to present it.
Reporting to the Check Issuer
If someone cashed a stolen check written out to you, you'll need to reach out directly to the check's issuer alongside contacting the police. For example, you'd contact the Internal Revenue Service to file an identity theft affidavit for a stolen government check from them, and they'd do an investigation and reissue the check as soon as they can verify fraud took place. In the case of a stolen paycheck, you could contact your employer and find out what policies they have; the bank, rather than your employer, may end up handling the situation.
Preventing Future Check Issues
To avoid the hassle of dealing with stolen checks, it helps to take some preventative steps if you face a situation like a stolen checkbook or get paid often with paper checks that can easily get lost or stolen.
For example, you should let your bank know as soon as you've lost any check or checkbook so that they can stop check payments from going through on your account. If you have the option, you could tell your bank you'll just pick up new checks in person and avoid mail altogether. You might consider setting up transaction alerts, too, to keep a close watch on funds leaving your account.
To prevent getting paper checks lost or stolen, consider using direct deposit as much as possible. Not only can this avoid checks getting cashed by the wrong person, but you'll likely find it more convenient not needing to visit the bank or upload the checks on your bank's mobile app to cash them. Using electronics funds transfers rather than writing paper checks can also cut down on the risk of the checks getting in the wrong hands.
- The Balance: 5 Steps to Take If Your Checkbook or Debit Card Is Stolen
- LifeLock: Reporting Identity Theft to Police: Steps to Take and Things to Know
- Credit.com: Someone Stole My Tax Refund. Will I Ever Get it Back?
- NerdWallet: How to Cancel a Lost Check
- Experian: What Is Check Fraud?
- HelpWithMyBank.gov: I Just Received My Account Statement and Noticed There Were Forged Checks. When I Notified the Bank, It Claimed the Forgeries Were Due to My Negligence. What Can I Do?
- Investor Mint: What Should You Do When You Lose Your Checkbook?
- Greenwald-Doherty: Employers’ Responsibility for Lost or Stolen Paychecks.
- White Rose Credit Union: Enroll in Direct Deposit for These 7 Incredible Benefits