• March 14, 2023
  • Posted by General Electric Credit Union
  • 3 read

Stay Alert! Check Fraud Surged 84% Between 2021 and 2022

The pandemic had a profound impact on the financial lives of many Americans. Job loss, increased health expenses, and more left the budgets of individuals and families in the red. As a result, the federal government issued three different rounds of stimulus payments. In total, the Internal Revenue Service sent out more than 476 million payments totaling $816 billion dollars.1 

Unfortunately, criminals saw this as an opportunity. Compared to 2019, there was a 225% increase in tax identity theft claims submitted to the IRS in relation to stimulus payments in 2020.2 Unfortunately, the end of stimulus payments did not bring the end of check fraud. In fact, incidents of check fraud increased 84% between 2021 and 2022.3 Now is not the time to let your guard down!

What is check fraud?

Criminals will manipulate or use a check to obtain money that doesn’t belong to them. For example, they might steal a check out of a mailbox and use a chemical formula to remove the ink or “wash” it. Then, they rewrite the check with a new payee and a higher amount. 

How can check fraud be avoided? 


There are many ways for the everyday banker to protect themselves, including: 

  • Bill Pay. Bill payments made by check and sent through the mail can be intercepted by bad actors. Secure platforms like Bill Pay remove this access from them.4 This tool consolidates all of a user’s eBills under one platform – streamlining monthly payments – and keeps sensitive information locked away under a unique login. 
  • Use a payment network. Many people write or send checks for special events like birthdays or graduations. To remove the risk of check fraud, consider using a payment network like Zelle® or Venmo to send money instead. Senders will have peace of mind and recipients may receive their funds faster. It’s a win, win! 
  • Review transaction history. Frequently reviewing the transaction history on a checking or savings account can help users spot fraud. In the event it’s discovered, it should be reported to an individual’s financial institution as soon as possible.  


All of the above tips can help keep businesses safe, too. But there’s an additional tool business owners shouldn’t overlook: Check Positive Pay. The best credit unions offer this service, which verifies every incoming check against a listing of checks the business uploads or inputs into Business Online Banking or the financial institution’s mobile app when they are written. If an incoming check isn’t authorized, it’s immediately flagged and dubbed an exception. 

Business owners are sent an email the morning after a check posts that prompts them to login and review the exception. Financial institutions have been able to return counterfeit checks immediately to mitigate fraud risk for businesses. 

In situations where a check is preferred or necessary, General Electric Credit Union (GECU) advises members to hand them directly to the recipient or to a post office employee if it’s being sent by mail. This will limit individuals’ susceptibility to check fraud. 

If checks aren’t a necessity, we offer a range of digital services that make payments more secure and convenient, including Bill Pay, Online Banking and a top-rated mobile app, and Positive Pay for business members. 

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