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Those accepting checks must be very cautious
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The Internet age, electronic bill-paying, and the increased use of credit/debit cards have made a substantial reduction of the overall use of checks for financial transactions. It is a trend that will likely continue until this country's financial system completely transforms itself. Eventually, most financial transactions will take place through electronic mediums, whether for paying bills, routine purchases, or for payments between businesses and suppliers. It is a matter of practicality and convenience for all parties involved, as electronic payments are usually verified and processed more quickly than check payments. Even the use of paper money and coins has already become an antiquated means of conducting business transactions. Coins will probably be the first to go as the shift toward electronic transactions continues.

The biggest problem with checks for consumers and business owners alike is that high quality printers allow for home production of phony checks that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Software programs that produce these checks, along with paper specially sized for the printing of checks, are available at most office supply stores and of course, through the Internet. These programs allow for the quick and easy printing of checks, and while they are intended for legitimate use only, criminals long ago discovered their usefulness. All they have to do is to obtain checking account numbers and the bank routing numbers (which are easily found online) and then they are "in business." And it is relatively easy to obtain valid information from unsuspecting victims - especially if processed checks or bank statements are discarded in the garbage (which can be quickly found by "dumpster divers" or "garbage can aficionados"), or if unscrupulous employees of retail stores and local businesses transfer the information received from legitimate purchases to their criminal acquaintances.

Some companies that are in the commercial business of printing checks are also part of the problem. In some instances, these companies will fill check orders without using adequate systems to verify that the purchaser is legitimate. With your personal and account information, hundreds of checks can be ordered by a criminal and printed by professionally if the validity of the order isn't verified properly.

Most retailers require valid identification before accepting checks. And despite their best efforts, they still have far too many instances when the check turns out to be fraudulent. Even if a potential check recipient contacts the bank to verify that an account is active, that fact alone does not guarantee that the check is legitimate. There are many retail stores and restaurants that simply refuse all checks because the problem of phony and stolen checks, along with closed accounts and insufficient funds is so prolific. The losses associated with problem checks are astronomical. The same kinds of problems also exist for money orders and traveler's checks.

Frankly, it is impossible to create or maintain a financial transaction system that protects against all forms of fraud or misuse. As long as people are designing anti-fraud or anti-theft methods, criminals will overcome those same designs through ingenuity and persistence. There is no financial transaction system, whether it is electronic, checks or currency that is immune to the criminal element. But personal checks tend to be more vulnerable, so persons with checking accounts and those who accept checks as payments must be extremely careful and use all reasonable protections to safeguard their financial interests.

Hundreds of millions of checks are written each year in this country, so opportunities abound for fraud and theft. If you are concerned about this problem, there is a lot of check crime information available on Internet. If you wish for more information, your local police department can also assist with questions.