While there’s currently a lot of concern about identity theft, the hijacking of electronic accounts, and other forms of modern day fraud, not as much attention is being paid to good, old-fashioned, low-tech fraud. So… As a followup to my previous post on being careful about who you pay with a check, I thought I’d post a few tips that I recently ran across on how to avoid the alteration of your checks once you’ve made a payment, or at least how to stave off mistakes on the part of the bank. Most (all?) of these are common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure that you’re doing all that you can to protect yourself…
Note that the original article in which I found these tips was targeted at small business owners. I’ve simply abstracted out those tips that are likely to be of use to an everyday-Joe. If you’re interested in a few additional tips on how to better protect your business, then you should check out the original article.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand…
First off, when writing the numerical check amount, start as close to the dollar sign as possible to prevent someone from inserting an additional number.
Next, when writing the check amount in words:
-start at the far left of the space allotted for the purpose and capitalize only the first letter,
-hyphenate all numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine,
-use the word “and” between the dollar and the cent amount,
-following the cent amount, draw a line all the way to the right of the space
If you’re writing a check for less than a dollar:
-write the word “only” before the amount, then write the amount in words
-cross out the word “dollars” that is on the check
-circle the amount that is to the right of the dollar sign (although I’m not really sure why this would necessarily help)
Also make sure that the dollar amounts agree in both fields of the check. If there is a discrepancy, many banks will favor the numerical amount written over the words.
If writing a check to an individual who at a company, always include the person’s title or the name of the company such that the person can’t easily deposit the check into his or her own account.
If you make a mistake when writing a check, do not correct it. Rather, write “void” on the check and either file it or destroy it. Also be sure to write “void” in your check register to help your accounting records.
And finally… Never, and I mean NEVER, write a check in pencil (or erasable pen). Always use indelible blue or black ink.
Actually, if you’re dumb enough to write a check in pencil, then you probably deserve to be the victim of check fraud!