While we may live in an increasingly digital world, many businesses still rely on checks to support their operations. From paying employees, to receiving payment for a service or paying their own bills, checks still play an important role in the day-to-day movement of funds.
Check usage has been in decline for decades as Americans have largely switched to paying for their services with credit and debit cards, online bill pay, and other electronic payment rails such as ACH. However, even with this decline in usage, Americans still wrote roughly 3.4 billion checks in 2022 with the average size of the checks increasing from $673 in 1990 — or $1,602 in today's dollars — to $2,652 last year.1
According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), banks issued roughly 680,000 reports of check fraud last year. That’s up from 350,000 reports in 2021. Meanwhile the U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported roughly 300,000 complaints of mail theft in 2021, more than double the prior year's total. The USPS also reported an increase in high volume mail theft incidents from mail receptacles including blue collection boxes: 38,500 in 2022 and more than 25,000 in the first half of 2023.2
Local reports note, Amesbury, MA and Salisbury, MA Police have both issued notices regarding an increase in reports on checks stolen from mailboxes.
To stay safe from fraud, it's advisable to check with your local police department about its prevalence in your area. If you send a check in the mail, take extra precautions such as avoiding residential mailboxes and instead drop off the check at the post office.
Despite the declining use of checks in the US, criminals have been increasingly targeting the US mail since the COVID-19 pandemic to commit check fraud.
Criminals committing mail theft-related check fraud generally target the US mail to steal personal and business checks, tax refunds, and checks related to government assistance programs, such as Social Security or unemployment benefits. Criminals will steal all types of checks as part of a mail theft scheme, but business checks may be more valuable. This is because business accounts are often well-funded, and it may take longer for the victim to notice the fraud in their account.
The most common type of check fraud is what’s known as check washing. Check washing involves the use of chemicals to remove the original ink on a check and replacing the payee and often the dollar amount; sometimes increasing the check amount by hundreds or thousands of dollars! Fraudsters may also copy and print multiple washed checks for future use or to sell to third-party criminals.
How BankProv Can Help Safeguard Your Business
If you’re a business owner, you know that keeping your business finances in order is critical. Unfortunately, criminals are getting more sophisticated in their tactics so it’s essential to think about how to safeguard your business. That’s where your bank comes in. We’re sharing a few ways BankProv can help keep your business safe:
- Online & Mobile Banking: Whether you’re working from your office or the comfort of your home, our online and mobile banking is an easy, convenient way to manage your finances 24/7. Pay your bills securely by setting up recurring payments so you’ll never miss a due date, originate same-day ACH credit transactions, or pay invoices and make ACH disbursements. Business clients can also add users and customize their access. Our Online & mobile banking allow you to connect to QuickBooks to help manage your accounting needs seamlessly. There are also options for you to keep your account secure with Fingerprint ID or Face ID login in our mobile application and account activity alerts.
- Cash Management Tools: Manage your payables easily and securely with our team of experts at BankProv. We provide secure processing of transactions and assist you with managing all your payment needs to maximize your cash flow and minimize the headaches.
- Positive Pay: Designed to help our business clients protect themselves against fraudulent checks and ACH transactions. Positive Pay can help business owners safeguard their bank accounts against any losses by detecting potentially fraudulent transactions before they get processed. With our Check Positive Pay, we’ll automatically match check numbers and amounts against an issued-check file you provide.
- Our ACH Positive Pay can help prevent fraud through electronic debits to your business account, allowing you to easily monitor ACH activity. You can also set ACH rules, allowing you to build a list of approved vendors and those that are paid automatically, or even cap the amount a vendor can be paid per transaction. If an ACH occurs that’s not on the approved vendor list or outside of the rules you’ve set, you will receive an alert allowing you to approve or deny the transaction.
- Fully Insured Deposits: Since 1934, we’ve provided 100% fully insured deposits at no additional cost or complexity to our clients thanks to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Depositors Insurance Fund (DIF). The combination of FDIC and DIF insurance allows us to provide our clients complete peace of mind with insurance on all their deposit accounts above and beyond the $250,000 per depositor FDIC limit.
- Relationship with your Banker: We’re not just a bank. We’re your partner. We’re committed to helping your business succeed which is why you will get a dedicated account manager no matter the size of your business. They’ll be there for you throughout the life of your banking relationship with BankProv and can help navigate new products and services that might be a right fit for your business.
We provide a range of solutions to meet your business needs, from cash management services to API banking capabilities. Whether you're looking for secure funding to grow your business or need guidance as you scale, our team will work with you every step of the way to ensure you have the right services in place. We are committed to supporting your banking needs as they evolve and grow alongside your business.