June 25, 2024

Recently, identity thieves have returned to old-school methods of identity theft. This change has proven challenging for the government and banks to address. Part of the problem when countering these identity thieves is the high-quality fake IDs they acquired. 

Acquiring quality counterfeit passports and driver’s licenses is more accessible today, significantly increasing the odds of employees mistaking them for real IDs. According to fraud and cybercrime advisers, thieves can access your bank account once they have the bank account number and a fake ID. Unfortunately, thieves can find this number by looking at stolen check images from the dark web.

One adviser shared an example of one such source, calling it “the new dark web that’s not so dark.” According to this fraud and cybercrime adviser, many thieves have turned to a cloud-based encrypted instant messaging forum to acquire stolen information.

Experts explained that these check images often come from stolen cars, broken-in houses, and easy-access mailboxes. With enough time, thieves can learn a victim’s Social Security Number and birthday, create fake identification to match the information, and then masquerade as the victim to access their bank.

One victim explained how a thief used her stolen information to drain her bank account. First, she stressed how the thief visited three banks and took thousands from her checking accounts. Then, she explained how the thief found a weak link in the banking system by picking out a bank teller who did not follow the bank’s procedures.

  • This teller missed several red flags, including the following:
  • The thief used her maiden name despite her not using it for years,
  • The thief misspelled her first name on two checks, and
  • The teller did not record the ID form and number, which the procedure required.

These failures led to the victim’s losses. According to the founder of a nonprofit network fighting fraud, “You can’t forget to do the basics really well. We are constantly against criminals that are trying to find new and old ways to defeat our defenses. It’s a nonstop battle.”

One significant reason for the increase in check fraud is the improved security in digital and online financial transactions. As such, authorities have encouraged the public to take several steps to protect their information. Examples of such advice include the following:

  • Use Indelible Ink. One common form of check fraud involves washing the ink off a check and replacing it with the thief’s information. However, indelible ink makes washing the check more difficult.
  • Mail Checks From the Post Office. Thieves often steal checks from mailboxes, so mailing them directly from the post office is safer.
  • Check Your Accounts Regularly. Frequently reviewing one’s accounts ensures victims know whether someone has accessed their information immediately. Consider periodically checking via mobile or website banking or receiving monthly paperless statements.
  • Use Alternatives to Checks. Various apps allow individuals to pay without writing a check. Consider using secure applications like Paypal, Venmo, and options provided by the bank.
Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.