Protect Your Checkbook
It is common practice to carry a checkbook with you just in case you need to write a check. Sometimes the checkbook is in a purse, glove box of your car, or maybe a few loose checks in your wallet. This may seem like a convenient practice for you but it is also convenient for others to gain access to it as well. It is unlikely you will notice a check or two missing from your checkbook. Sure, you may notice if it was the next few checks in your booklet, but what if I took one from the middle or towards the end? How long will it take you to find out it’s missing? It is about 35 dollars to put a stop payment on each of those missing checks which you will more than likely spend for peace of mind. Your check has information about you that can go further than just your current bank account. With a check, I have your name, address, bank name and account number. All I need now is a social security number to open an account. I could use that check as a guide to order new checks from an online printing company. Now I can write a write a few small checks around 50-60 dollars and buy some nice things I can pawn quickly.
What you should do
Think about how often you write checks vs how often you carry them around. You should only carry them when it is absolutely necessary and only carry a few. Do not carry more than you plan on using that day and maybe a spare one just in case you make a mistake. Write the check numbers down in your check book ledger that stays at home. Once you are done writing checks for the day, go back to your ledger and write down what happened to each of the checks. There are alternative methods of paying for things other than checks but there are many cases where checks are your only option. For example, school field trips for your kids, making payments to government municipalities, and getting direct deposit set up. Try to use other options as much as possible. The less you carry around, the less likely you are to lose them or have them stolen.
Protect your Bank Statements
Every month your bank sends you a bank statement and one of two things will happen to them. You will keep it because you are worried somehow the bank will lose your money and you having that paper statement will prove you had x amount of money in your account. If you do not keep it, you will throw it away and maybe you will rip it into a few pieces before you do and once it is in the trash, you do not think about it again. At some point, your statements will end up in the trash. There is a growing group of people which go through garbage in search for buried treasure. They are commonly referred to as dumpster divers. It is common to see homeless people looking for scrap metal, food, and other items they can use to some extent. You might be surprised to hear that there are many low and middle class individuals that look through trash as well. They are not looking for ways to steal your bank information but if they happen to run into it, you unknowing provided them with information they should not know. It is hard to tell a dumpster diver apart from someone trying to gather information about you. Basic information like how much you make, when you get paid, what bank you use, what shops you go to. This is personal information which can be combined with other information to cause you harm.
What you should do
Go paperless. This should be obvious to you but if you are not opting for the paperless route, you are putting yourself and your family at risk. There are some of you who the moment you read go paperless, the though sounds like a terrible idea because you are stuck in the physical. You feel the need to touch and hold it but you are better off with a paperless alternative and here is why. Your bank has a legal obligation to keep your financial history for many years. They spend a lot of money to make sure they are compliant. You are able to request those records if there is an issue and in extreme cases, you can have an attorney help you. Your digital statements are just as good as the paper statements. You can keep them on your computer, an external hard drive or in the cloud. I recommend not keeping them at all. You can view them online through your banks portal page. You can download them from there when you need them or preferably, view them online. If for any reason you need to download them to your computer or print them out, place the printed document in a safe or lock them in a cabinet . You can buy a quality personal home shredder that cross cuts the paper for under $50. Shred it when you are done with them.