KAUKAUNA — In response to a rise in check fraud, the Bank of Kaukauna is warning consumers to be careful with their checking information.

In a news release, the bank outlined a few simple tips that businesses and consumers can take to protect their accounts. (See below)

“It’s a nationwide problem, and the Fox Valley is not immune to it,” said TJ Minnehan, President of the Bank of Kaukauna. “Fraudsters often look for mailboxes with their flags up and steal the mail that’s waiting to be sent — or they might follow a mail truck and grab what’s been delivered.”

In 2023, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued an alert noting a dramatic increase in check fraud, with U.S. Postal Service mail targeted more frequently since the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, financial institutions filed more than 680,000 suspicious activity reports in 2022, nearly double the amount filed in 2021. That year had seen a 23 percent increase in check fraud over 2020.

This surge emphasizes the urgency for individuals and businesses to adopt preventative measures to protect their financial assets.

This means criminals now have an individual’s or business owner’s signature on the check. With today’s computer programs and printers, checks can be recreated or modified with a digital image of the signatures overlayed on the new fraudulent check, Minnehan said. Or criminals might effectively erase the name on the payee line and add whatever name they like.

“In the 1990s, the advent of technology diminished check fraud,” Minnehan said. “But ironically, check fraud is back as improved technology has made it much easier to recreate these check items.”

Recommended precautions:

Stop putting checks in your mailbox. If you must mail a physical check, take the mail to your local post office or use another mail service.

Set up online payments. Whenever possible, make payments via Automated Clearing House (ACH) instead of writing out physical checks. “When else would you give out your name, address, phone, bank account number and routing number?” Minnehan said. “The information on those checks is so dangerous.”

Business owners should use Positive Pay. This is a system that banks make available to business owners in which cleared checks are compared with what has been issued. Any discrepancies are flagged.

Set up alerts through your online bank accounts. That way, anytime there’s suspicious activity, you will receive notifications through text messages, emails or pop-up alerts on your phone.

Despite all precautions, incidents of check fraud can still occur. BOK advises that if individuals or businesses suspect fraud, they should:

Contact their financial institution immediately. While consumers have 60 days to report suspected fraud, businesses have just 24 hours to notify their bank when a cleared item looks suspicious. For that reason, businesses that don’t use Positive Pay should have someone checking the accounts at least once daily. While banks will still work hard after 24 hours to try to recover the money, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee.

Minnehan affirms BOK’s commitment to security, saying, “at the Bank of Kaukauna, we understand the impact of financial fraud on our community. We are dedicated to providing our customers with the knowledge and tools they need to safeguard their assets as criminal activity evolves.”

About the Bank of Kaukauna

Located in Kaukauna, WI, and established in 1879, the Bank of Kaukauna has been a pillar of financial stability in the community for 145 years.

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By staff