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Chapter 4

Prevent Checks from Being Lost or Stolen

There is no current federal law to limit your losses if someone steals your checks and forges your signature, though state laws do offer some protection. In most states, the financial institution is responsible for losses from a forged check. However, you are expected to be aware of your account activity, and you may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the financial institution in a timely manner that a check was lost or stolen.

Take action immediately if you think your checks have been lost or stolen:

  • Checks are missing from your checkbook or your reserve supply of checks

  • Mail containing checks or account information is "lost" or appears to have been tampered with

  • Unauthorized transactions appear on your checking account statement

Only carry checks that you need and keep all others in a secure place. Write checks with thick, dark ink. Draw lines to fill in gaps in the spaces where you designate a payee and the amount of the check. Immediately report irregularities in your checking account statements. Report mail theft or tampering to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Make the Time for Checking Account Management

  • It only takes a second to mark your transactions in your checkbook register. Do it every time.

  • Keep all ATM receipts in a safe and accessible place and reconcile your checkbook immediately.

  • Open and review your checking account statements as they come in.

  • Access and maintain your accounts on-line.

  • Set aside a specific place in your home for your bills and financial documents. Organize them into logical files for quick and easy access.

  • Try the "agenda method" – For each month on your calendar, mark a date and time for checkbook management, just as you would any important appointment.


Different Types of Checks

When you have a checking account, you generally use personal checks for most of your transactions. However, you may be asked to use another type of check if your merchant or service provider requires a guarantee that the funds will be available when the check is cashed.

  • Personal – The type of checks you receive when you open a checking account. You may be charged an annual fee for the use of the checking account, as well as the cost of the checks.

  • Certified – A personal check for which the financial institution guarantees payment. Your financial institution will freeze the value of the check from the funds available in the checking account.

  • Cashier's – Available at most financial institutions, usually for a low fee. You can purchase one for any dollar amount and the funds are guaranteed.

  • Money Orders – Available for purchase at a variety of retailers, including the post office, financial institutions, and check-cashing establishments.

Continue to Chapter 5

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