When it comes to our hard-earned money, we tend to trust our banks to keep it safe. And that’s a lot of money overall. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the average bank account balance of American consumers is $5,300. Multiply that by the majority of Americans with bank accounts, and you end up with a pretty hefty sum. Naturally, there are thieves looking to take advantage, prompting police to issue a new alert to Americans on how to avoid having money stolen from their accounts. Read on to find out what the authorities say you should never let your bank give you.
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From stealing your physical debit card to targeting you with banking scams, there are plenty of ways for thieves to gain access to the money you have in your bank account. And many people are well aware of this. While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reports that 97.3% of banked households say they are satisfied with their bank, 16.1% of unbanked households say they don’t have a bank account because they “don’t trust to the banks”.
They may have good reason to feel this way. According to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, more than 29% of American adults report having experienced at least one of the top five problems associated with using banking services. The most common problem? Fraudulent transactions. About 16% of adults said they were affected by money being taken from their account through charges they did not make.
If you transfer any of your money through the United States Postal Service (USPS) these days, you are putting yourself at risk. Police in Chevy Chase, Maryland are now warning residents of the ongoing mail theft, Patch reported Sept. 21. According to the Chevy Chase Village Police Department, thieves in suburban Maryland stole mailbox keys and used those keys to steal USPS pickup mailboxes at Bethesda and Chevy Chase.
Thieves are looking for one thing in particular: your checks. Authorities said the criminals found checks in the mail and faked their names, sometimes allowing them to steal thousands of dollars from people’s bank accounts.
“Criminals Steal Mail, That’s What Happens” Frank Albergo, national president of the Postal Police Officers Association, told ABC affiliate WMAR in Baltimore. “They’re looking for checks to wash, they’re breaking into blue collection boxes, they’re stealing from postmen, they’re breaking into postal vehicles, it’s out of control. Postal crime has gotten out of hand.”
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With ongoing mail theft becoming more prevalent, the Chevy Chase Village Police Department said it recommends Americans try “to write as few checks as possible,” making payments electronically instead. only by mailed cheque. But if you still need to send checks through the USPS, authorities have another key tip: “Ask your bank for ‘secure’ checks that are harder to change.”
Many people still use regular personal checks, which are just “slips of paper issued by your bank with the bank’s routing number and your account number on it”, account to Forbes. These make it easier for criminals to forge checks they steal from the mail, with Frank Abagnalea secure document consultant in Washington, DC, told Bankrate that thieves commit about $1.1 billion in check fraud each year.
Fortunately, banks also offer “official bank checks” such as certified checks and cashier’s checks. These typically require more from customers, such as government-issued photo ID, proof that there’s enough money in your account to cover the check, and additional fees, e.g. Forbes. “Cashier’s checks and certified checks are official checks guaranteed by a bank,” Investopedia explains. “Compared to personal checks, cashier’s checks and certified checks are generally considered more secure and less susceptible to fraud.”
Mail theft isn’t just a problem in Maryland. People from every state in the United States have faced this ongoing crisis. As a result, Albergo advises Americans against putting valuables, such as bank checks, in community mailboxes. “You know, as a postman it’s hard to say, I refuse to say it, but I wouldn’t put anything in the blue collection boxes, I would take my mail to a post office,” he said. he told WMAR. “People are losing the public’s trust in the mail. The Postal Service is destroying its brand.”
The Postal Inspectors Branch of the USPS told the outlet that it continues to investigate postal-related crimes nationwide, such as mail fraud, theft and crimes against postal workers. “As part of our mission to protect our employees, our customers and the Postal Service, thefts of postal employees are a top priority for postal inspectors,” said the Postal Inspectors Public Affairs Office. of the United States (USPIS). “Although the incidence of robberies is relatively low (considering the number of daily contacts postal workers have with the public), postal inspectors take each of them very seriously.”