What Should You Do If Your Checks Are Stolen?

What should you do if your checks are stolen? A stolen checkbook needs to be treated as seriously as if your credit cards, debit cards or Social Security number were stolen. Speedy electronic banking and...

Speedy electronic banking and automatic funds transfers may have overtaken the old-fashioned checkbook, but most of us still keep one handy. When someone steals your checkbook, they can write checks in your name anywhere they go. Without the security of a magnetic strip or signature panel, they can get away with it for long periods of time.

A stolen checkbook needs to be treated as seriously as if your credit cards, debit cards or Social Security number were stolen. If your checks are stolen the first thing you should do is notify your bank as soon as possible, and take some steps to protect yourself.

"There is a fraud unit within the bank that can address these issues. You should close out your account as soon as possible and open a new one," explains Steve Twirago, personal banker with Chase Bank.

The main reason it is vital to get your account closed as soon as possible is to avoid anyone writing checks against your account. If someone has stolen your checks the only thing that can stop them is you. If you ignore it, you may end up in huge financial trouble.

There is one thing you should do before closing your account however: "Make sure any pending transactions are completed first," says Twirago.

You may have checks written on your account that are still outstanding and you will need to take care of those before you close your account.

Twirago says, "You can either go through the stop payment process, with all the related fees, or wait for all the checks to clear and report any transactions you did not authorize."

What happens if you have direct deposit for your account? Twirago states, "If the account is closed and the customer has direct deposit, they need to arrange with their employer to get them the updated account information as soon as possible. In the interim, the customer may have to get a physical check from the company until the transition is complete."

Will you be held liable for these checks if they do manage to go through? "As long as the victim didn't authorize the transaction, you most likely won't be liable but you should check with your specific bank to make sure," says Twirago.

If someone has stolen your checks, you need to be diligent about watching your account if you need to take a few days for transactions to clear before you can close it.

What will your bank do for you? "They will research any unauthorized transactions you report. To be safe, you should keep a close eye on your own account activity," says Twirago.

There may come a time when some of your checks are missing but you don't know it yet. If someone else is using your checks you may not know until they begin to appear on your statement. If you want to know what your bank may or may not do, you need to ask your particular bank.

"Not every bank handles checks the same way. You'd have to check with your particular bank's fraud unit," explains Twirago

The best way to guard against stolen checks is to be pro-active. "Keep your checks in a safe place and keep your account number confidential," states Twirago.

If you find out your checks are missing, notify your bank as soon as possible and follow their advice to the letter. Keep a close eye on your account activity. You are better able to protect yourself if you know what is going on with your account at all times.

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