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How to help protect your business from check fraud

Your next business check may cost you more than you realize. Discover simple steps to help keep your business safe.

minute read


    Can you remember the last time you wrote a check to pay for groceries or new clothes? Some retailers have stopped accepting checks in stores. However, 36% of businesses still use checks to pay their vendors for goods and services, leaving business-to-business (B2B) transactions particularly vulnerable to fraud.

    Business checks are instruments of fraud for a few reasons. First, paper doesn't have the same protections, like biometrics or two-step verification, that digital financial services do. And advanced printer technology has made it easier than ever to create realistic-looking business checks at home.

    Then there's the issue of how long it takes for a business check to process. The time span between when a check is written and when it's cashed and cleared creates opportunities for fraud to go unnoticed until it's too late.

    Fear not. As common as business check fraud is, there are ways to prevent it. Once you're aware of the dangers, you can take simple steps to protect yourself and your business.


    What to look for with business check fraud

    Check fraud can occur whether you're issuing checks or receiving them. As you read through the common types of check fraud, consider whether your business habits make you more vulnerable in either instance.


    1. Check washing

    One of the most common scams is check washing. On a small scale, check washing refers to people stealing checks from individual mailboxes, erasing the ink and writing in a higher value to a different recipient. On a larger scale, washed checks can be duplicated and illicitly sold.

    How to help prevent:

    • Take outgoing mail directly to the post office for increased secure delivery.
    • Don't let delivered mail sit in your mailbox.
    • Write checks using permanent ink.


    2. Cash-back scams

    There's an adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A popular scam involves customers paying more than the amount due for goods or services with a bad check and then requesting a refund for the surplus amount. When the check bounces, you've lost your time or inventory and the money you refunded.

    How to help prevent:

    • Avoid accepting overpayments for goods and services.
    • Ensure that a check has cleared before issuing a refund.
    • Work with vendors you trust.


    3. First-party fraud

    Another common scam occurs when suppliers or vendors misrepresent themselves as part of a legitimate business, accept your payment and then never deliver the product or service. Often associated with social media deals and tech support services, first-party fraud can apply to any type of payment, though check transactions are particularly susceptible.

    How to help prevent:

    • Verify the person's identity before issuing payment. Try their call-back number or look up the business if you're unsure.
    • Slow down the transaction. Scammers try to make situations appear urgent. If someone rushes you to send money, it may not be legitimate.


    4. Stolen checkbook

    Experiencing fraud with a single business check is bad enough, but a stolen checkbook yields as many opportunities for fraud as there are checks. Scammers can easily write checks for any amount and forge your signature. Because it can take a few days to process a check, serious damage can occur before you notice.

    How to help prevent:

    • Safeguard your business checkbook.
    • Order only as many business checks as necessary to fulfill short-term needs.
    • Monitor your accounts to catch fraud early.


    5. Duplicate loss

    Duplicate loss occurs when someone cashes the same check twice. For example, a person could cash the same check through mobile deposit and also at an ATM or a bank. If the check clears each time, you could be out double the amount you intended to pay.

    How to help prevent:

    • Write business checks to people you trust, such as vendors or employees with whom you have an established relationship.
    • Use services like Check Monitoring or Reverse Positive Pay to ensure that the checks you issue match the amounts being deposited.


    Follow best practices

    In addition to the tips listed above, the following actions can help you prevent fraud:

    • Order checks directly from your bank. Checks with better security features, such as watermarks, are harder to duplicate.
    • Fill out checks fully and completely. Write out the numerical value in addition to the full name of the recipient, the date and a note. To help prevent someone from writing an extra zero or adding themselves as a recipient, draw a line to the end of every space.
    • Deposit checks promptly. Cash business checks as soon as they arrive. Use tools like Chase QuickDeposit to conveniently deposit them from your phone. 
    • Properly dispose of checks. Once your business checks are deposited, either shred them to obscure personal information or void and store them in a safe place.
    • Keep a close eye on your finances. Account Alerts and mobile banking solutions like the Chase Mobile® app help you monitor account activity in real time.
    • Enroll in Check Monitoring. A type of Reverse Positive Pay, this service lets you review the business checks that you issued before they're deposited. If the check you review doesn't match the one you issued, you can alert your bank not to cash it.
    • Consider Check Protection Services. If you write a lot of checks, this service can help streamline check tracking. Upload or enter all issued checks and Chase will compare between issued and presented checks to flag discrepancies.


    Consider other ways to pay

    Chase offers other payment options that don't include the risk of check fraud.

    For example, Online Bill Pay allows you to set up recurring payments and transfer money electronically. Automatic Clearing House (ACH) lets you send money to vendors and employees through Direct Deposit, and Wires are a convenient way to transfer money internationally and domestically.

    For more tips and information about preventing check fraud, visit Chase's Fraud and Security Services page.


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