Just about any type of payment you make can be done without paper checks these days. You can pay your bills through online portals, shop with credit cards or mobile payment apps and send money to your friends and family with Venmo or Zelle.
But many people and businesses still rely on paper checks in the mail to do business, at least some of the time. And while mailing a check in the United States is reasonably safe, paper checks do run the risk of being lost or stolen. Thieves can even use checks to learn your bank account number and routing number, which are printed on the check.
The next time you drop a check in the mail, you can follow these steps to help increase security and that your payment reaches the intended recipient.
1. Restrict the Paper Check
For better check security, you can restrict the check by dictating that it can only be deposited in the bank account of the intended recipient. Simply write “For deposit only” on the back of the check where the signature goes. This method isn’t 100% foolproof, as a bank teller could miss it or ignore it.
But it can help make it less likely that a thief is able to successfully cash the check or sign it over to somebody else, especially without leaving a paper trail.
2. Use a Security Envelope for Checks
Some envelopes are very thin and slightly transparent, making it easy to determine if there is a check inside. Consider buying some security envelopes, which are designed to conceal the contents of your mail. If you don’t have any, you can also simply enclose the check in a folded piece of paper before stuffing it in the envelope.
3. Drop the Mail at a Secure Location
If you leave the mail sitting in an unsecured mailbox, anyone can come by and snatch it before the postal worker can collect it. Next time you mail a check, consider dropping it off at a secure location. You can put the mail in an official locked post office mailbox, drop it off at the post office or hand it directly to your mail carrier.
4. Send the Check Via Certified Mail
If you really want proof that the check arrives at its desired location, send it via certified mail. This requires someone to sign for the check when it arrives. The receipt is sent back to you as proof of delivery.
If you need an extra layer of protection after sending a paper check in the mail, consider signing up for an identity theft and credit monitoring plan. You will receive real-time fraud alerts and access to customer service representatives trained in dealing with fraud and identity theft.
5. Avoid Sending Cash or Money Order
Sending cash or a money order through the mail is not recommended as it may get lost, stolen, or damaged before it reaches the intended recipient.
6. Don’t Include Extra Details
Including personal details such as Social Security, credit card, driver’s license, or phone numbers on checks is common, but it can also make it easier for criminals to misuse your information.
7. Track Your Checks
Once you’ve mailed your checks, it’s important to keep track of them to ensure they arrive safely. You’ll receive tracking numbers that allow you to monitor the progress of your checks in real-time.
Tracking your checks ensures they are processed and transferred from one unit to another, helping to prevent unwanted delays and ensure they arrive on time.
8. Consider Alternative Payment Methods
Sending a check through the mail isn’t always the safest option. Consider using one of these secure alternatives instead:
- Bank transfers
- Online bill pay through your bank
- Electronic transfer services like Zelle or Venmo
- Debit or credit card payments
Why Do You Need to Take Precautions When Mailing a Check?
When sending a check through the mail, it’s important to take precautions to prevent sensitive information from being stolen and to protect against fraud.
Sensitive Information Could Be Stolen
While checks may not always be lost or stolen in transit, thieves can copy and store your account information and other details. To minimize risk, avoid folding checks.
Protection Against Fraud
If your checks are stolen and used fraudulently, report the theft to your bank within a specific time frame. Failure to do so could result in bearing the entire loss.
Creation of Counterfeit Checks
Counterfeit checks created by scammers using other people’s account details can lead to fraudulent transactions. While sending checks in the mail can be safe, it’s crucial to take precautions to prevent these risks.
Mailing a check can be a convenient way to make payments, but it also comes with potential risks. By following our tips for safely mailing a check, including using a security envelope, tracking your checks, and considering alternative payment methods, you can minimize these risks and ensure that your payment arrives at its intended destination securely and without delay.
What Happens if a Check Gets Lost in the Mail?
If a check you send through the mail gets lost, it may not reach the intended recipient, and you will need to take steps to ensure payment is received. You can contact your bank to stop payment on the check and issue a new one. To avoid this, use a secure envelope and keep track of your check numbers.
What Is the Fastest Way to Mail a Check?
The fastest way to mail a check is to use an expedited mailing service, like overnight or express mail. These services are faster and offer tracking and insurance options but can be more expensive. Alternatively, consider using electronic payment methods, which can be even faster and more secure than mailing a check.
Is It Safer to Send a Money Order or Check in the Mail?
Money orders are a secure option for sending money through the mail, offering more protection than cash or personal checks. U.S. Postal Service® money orders are a reliable and cost-effective choice, with no expiration date.
Can You Fold a Check?
Yes, you can fold a check, but be careful not to damage it. Use a sturdy envelope and avoid bending it near important numbers.