Student Protection Against Check Fraud

College life is motivating, exciting, and expensive! If a student is working somewhere part-time, one can only image how exciting that first minimum wage paycheck must be. The average student can make that 200 bucks stretch farther than a rubber band in a head full of dread locks! One can only imagine the anguish of discovering someone else has spend the hard-earned money never seen. That is exactly what happened to me.

As an early college student, I had not yet mastered the art of working a job and maintaining essential study habits, so I had summer jobs. I would earn just enough money in one summer to support my late night visits to the Golden Arches during study breaks that following semester.

After departing a laborious job in the summer of 2004, I was to receive my last paycheck by mail. After waiting the 6-10 business days, as predicted, I became anxious for the arrival of my 125 buckaroos. My anticipation increased as I waited one, two, three weeks and still remained penniless. After exactly one month from the day my check was sent, I was so frustrated and confused that I knew – today had to be the day!

I stared frantically out the window awaiting the small, white truck that so diligently delivered my mail everyday. After the truck sped off, I leaped through the yard, hopeful that my mailbox held my riches inside. However, my heart dropped after I opened the door and cleared out piles of coupons and credit card applications, only to peer into the black emptiness left inside. Checkless again!

Outraged, I called the company that was supposedly sending me the money, only to discover the check had been cashed just a few days before. Confused because I had never received the check, I ask whose signature was endorsed on the backâÂ?¦Mine?! Knowing I had never even seen the check, it dawned on me – my check had been stolen! After explaining my situation, the lady on the phone sent a microfilm copy for me to take to the authorities.

My check was not stolen out of a campus mailbox, but out of a home addressed delivery. However, students need to be made aware of the threats against their income and the steps to take in protecting their pocketbooks. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, more than 1.2 million fraudulent checks are written every day. Losses this year will exceed $20 billion. The following are some simple solutions to protecting your income and savings.

1. Get a campus. P.O. If you haven’t done so, get a mailbox on campus. Most boxes have a combination lock and are positioned so as to be seen by the teller at the post office window. This is better than a home address box that usually has nothing to protect against thieving fingers.
2. Store checks and debit cards in a safe place. This should be a given. However, all of us misplace items, and sometimes, valuable ones. Keep your unused checkbooks in a designated location, preferably one that a roommate or visitor to your dorm room would not have easy access to. Dresser drawers, storage containers, or somewhere that only you are permitted should all be safe areas.
3. Ladies, watch your Prada! The most recent designs of women’s bags have open tops without zippers and open side pockets without buttons. Although stylish, these types of bags provide easy entry for pick-pockets. A bag with a middle zipper pocket is best to store your checkbook in.
4. Balance your checkbook. How will you know if you’re missing money in your account if you don’t keep track of it? Record all dates, check numbers, and amount information carefully. To avoid entry errors, record data as soon as a transaction occurs, not later when you might forget.
5. Read you bank statement. You know that envelope you usually throw away unopened (that’s okay, we’re all guilty). Reconcile your checking account statement as soon as you receive it, or use your bank’s Partial or Full Check Reconciliation. Report losses or suspicious checks to your bank immediately.

Bottom line. Do not make the mistake of thinking check fraud won’t happen to you – it will! According to the American Bankers Association, this felony is increasing at a rapid rate, with nearly 13 fraudulent checks written per second! Do everything you can to protect yourself, your savings, and your stash. For more information and tips on protection against check fraud, please log on to the American Bankers Association at www.aba.com.

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