CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – Banking experts are sharing tips for consumers ahead of holiday shopping, as they said the holidays are times with a heightened risk for fraudulent schemes.

“During the holidays, people are making more purchases and tend to be more distracted than usual, which can make them more susceptible to theft and fraud,” Randy Hultgren, President and CEO of the Illinois Bankers Association, said. “Fraudsters are using increasingly elaborate schemes, and these thefts can be detrimental to consumers. We encourage Illinoisans to remain educated and vigilant about these deceptive tactics.”

Two main forms of fraud Illinoisans face include check fraud and online payment fraud.

Check Fraud 

According to the IBA, banks in Illinois are reporting a jump of nearly 70% in check fraud. Common ways check fraud can occur include by stealing a blank check from a checkbook, a canceled check in the garbage, or a check placed in a mailbox. The IBA estimates 90% of banks deal with fraud. 

The IBA recommends the following protections against check fraud: 

  • Order your checks from your bank. Make sure to properly dispose of checks.
  • Keep account information and checks safe.
  • Fill out checks properly and completely. They recommend avoiding writing any abbreviations on checks so there are less discrepancies.
  • If you use digital checks, use a bold font that is hard for someone to replicate.
  • Monitor your accounts to make sure all activity is yours.

Payment Fraud

 IBA officials say fraud also often happens with online purchases, and peer-to-peer payments from platforms like PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp. 

Some tips to prevent fraud online include:

  • Confirm all details for online payments before sending any money.
  • Use multi-factor authentication for all financial accounts online.
  • Be sure to check a website’s URL before entering any payment details, ensuring that it begins with “https://”.
  • Be careful sending money to a stranger. Also be wary of accessing financial information on public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Don’t trust a caller with any personal or financial information. Rather, call your bank directly.