Written paper checks are declining by 1.8 billion every year.
Experts predict that the traditional paper check will become extinct by 2026. Even banks no longer have to keep original checks. Instead electronic images are stored on a secure system.
But what about electronic checks?
Is it possible to email a check? How secure is it?
We discuss everything you need to know about this modern way to send a check and help you understand how to send payments digitally.
Can you email a check?
Thanks to modern technology and innovative banking procedures, it is possible to send an image of a check via email.
An electronic check or eCheck is a digital version of a paper check. It can also be referred to as an online check, direct check or internet check.
Most banks accept this secure form of cashing in checks, but it’s worth speaking to your bank first if you’re unsure.
How to email a check
Instead of taking checks to the bank, there are several other ways that you can digitally submit a check, depending on the type of check and value that you want to deposit.
Emailing a check
Emailing a check takes seconds and can be sent and received by anyone that has an email address. The receiver of a check can then either digitally deposit the check via a mobile app or other deposit services, or print and cash in the check in the same way as a paper check.
Using a bank’s mobile app
The modern way is via your bank’s mobile banking app. Each bank’s app will differ slightly, but generally, you can deposit checks by taking a clear picture of the front and back of the check. The app will then scan the image and check for information such as the amount, date, payee line, and signature line.
Banks can place a hold on funds that are deposited via a mobile app. This is because the check still needs to clear for the funds to become available. Some banks may even put a limit on how much you can deposit via checks on a mobile device. Mobile deposits can even bounce after confirmation on the app for the same reasons that checks bounce when manually paid in. It’s worth holding onto digital or paper copies of checks that you have paid in via a mobile deposit feature to make sure it’s approved first.
How to make your online checks more secure
Make your electronic check as secure as possible by:
Converting to a PDF and encrypting the file
You can send your check image via an encrypted PDF document which means that the recipient will need to insert a password before they can view it. The safest way to send a password is either via text or verbally over a phone call. Never email the password in case your account is compromised and the scammer will then have access to both the encrypted file and the password to access it.
Password protect other documents
If you’re not using an encrypted PDF file, it’s possible to add password protection to other documents such as Word. A password is an important level of security when dealing with documents that contain sensitive information. Use unique passwords that do not contain information such as your address or date of birth as these are easily guessed by hackers.
Using antivirus software and multi-factor authentication
Computer viruses can be used to gain access to your private information. A type of virus called ransomware encrypts your files and demands a form of payment in order to release them. It’s important to keep your antivirus software updated so it can protect against new online threats.
Multi-factor authentication adds another level of security to your online accounts rather than just a username and password. There are different ways that you can set this up, including a pin number or face recognition technology.
Consider faxing your check
Whilst fax is a more traditional way to send documents, it’s safer because it’s harder for hackers to access the system. Your local shipping office or printing facility may offer fax services if you’d rather avoid sending a check via email.
Is it safe to email a check?
Yes. In fact, email checks have security features that make them a much safer method of depositing checks than paper checks.
Security features of eChecks include:
Authentication – the bank account where the money is coming from is checked and verified.
Encryption – all sensitive information is hidden in case the check falls into the wrong hands
Public key cryptography – this is a process where personal finance information is protected during the process of being sent to the recipient.
Digital signature – a digital signature and timestamp is used to ensure that the transaction can’t be duplicated.
Certificate authorities – digital certificates can help to protect a person’s financial information and ensure secure communication between the sender and receiver.
Benefits of emailing a check
Electronic checks are:
· Cost-effective and eco-friendly – no paper is involved for the sender or recipient.
· Fast – you no longer need to go to a bank branch to physically pay in a check.
· Reduces processing errors – systems are used to validate the check on your behalf.
· Simple to send – most digital payment systems or apps only require a few clicks of a button and clear instructions to follow.
Downsides of emailing a check
As with anything that is done electronically, there are some risks involved with sending or receiving an eCheck.
· Cyberattacks – devices and email accounts are common targets of cyberattacks because they can give the hacker access to financial information such as bank details.
· Errors in email addresses – it’s important to verify and check email addresses with the recipient before sending. Typos in email addresses could lead to your check and personal information being sent to the wrong person.
· Your check is in the hands of technology – some people prefer to deal in paper checks because they don’t understand the process for submitting digital checks. Apps and other electronic systems can also have technical issues or faults that prevent them from working when you need them to.
How do banks verify eChecks?
eChecks are verified using clever technology and computer scanners to check that all the information on the check is present and correct. This includes the payee’s name and the value of funds.
Sometimes, electronic checks may be rejected because of mistyped information or unclear details on the check. If this happens, most systems will ask you to re-upload a photo of the check to try again.
For an eCheck to clear, the account number and routing details must match the details that the payer originally inserted. The reason these must match is to check that the account is still live. The system will also check that there are sufficient funds in the payee’s account in order for it to be processed.
Most digital deposit systems and banks will have an automatic payment confirmation feature set up so both the payer and payee receive a notification via email or text to confirm the transfer of funds has been successful.
Can you get scammed with an eCheck?
Fake check scams and mobile deposit scams happen when fraudsters deposit fake checks into a victim’s bank account.
Statistics show that 65.3% of Americans use some type of digital baking, including mobile deposits and eChecks. With more than half the US population using digital financial methods, cybercriminals are targeting people with new and sophisticated techniques.
The cybercriminal will often ask the victim to withdraw the funds and send them back, often making up a reason as to why they can’t withdraw the money themselves.
Types of remote deposit capture scams include:
· Fake job adverts – imitation job positions are posted online to target people who are looking for work. When a person applies, the fraudster will ask them to provide some bank details so they can cover application processing costs. Once these details have been provided, the criminal can access funds from the victim’s bank account.
· A false lottery win – you may receive a letter with a check that states you’ve become the lucky winner of a foreign lottery. However, to access the funds you need to write a check to cover taxes and fees. The personal details that you provide on a check could be used to gain access to your funds.
· State grants – another popular scam is when you’re offered money claiming to be from the government via mail or email. The catch is that a stimulus check is included that asks for funds to cover taxes and processing costs.
You can protect yourself from the mobile deposit and fake check scams by:
· Checking emails that appear too good to be true. Genuine prizes that you have won from reputable companies will never ask for your personal financial details in order to claim the prize.
· Verifying the source. Make sure you know who is at the other end of a message or email before providing your details.
· Regularly check your bank account activity and flag anything suspicious with your bank.
· Never give your details to a person claiming to be from your bank. If in doubt, tell the caller that you will ring them back. Always use the number issued on your debit or credit card.
· Don’t share too much information on your social media accounts. Cybercriminals use these platforms to use your details as a way to gain access to your bank accounts.
Is it possible to have your bank details stolen from an electronic check?
A check contains personal financial information such as name, address, and bank account number. It’s possible that a criminal could steal money from your account if they have access to both your routing number and account number.
Identity theft happens when a copy of your check is reproduced and then cashed in, taking money from your bank account. Thieves can also:
· Purchase things by using your credit or debit cards.
· Open new credit card or catalog, electricity or gas accounts.
· Gain access to your medical care.
· Steal your tax refund.
It’s not just misplaced or stolen checks that can provide opportunists with the information they need to commit fraud. Criminals use the following methods to commit fraudulent crimes:
· Steal your mail or garbage to access account numbers and other sensitive information.
· Send you an email that asks for personal information by pretending to be somebody you know or a company.
· Hack into medical or business company accounts to access your private details.
· Physically steal your wallet or purse.
· Hacking into your computer and stealing or guessing your banking password and security details.
Is there a limit on the value of an eCheck?
Typically, the only limit on the monetary value of a digital check is the funds that are available in the sender’s checking account.
It’s worth checking your bank’s policy on eChecks prior to sending or receiving payment to make sure there are no restrictions put in place in terms of value.
Can you cancel an electronic check?
Electronic checks can be canceled until the transaction clears. However, this could take as little as one business day because the payment process is much faster than traditional methods. If you are unable to cancel an eCheck, your other option is to issue a refund.
Can an eCheck bounce?
Whilst it is possible, it’s very unlikely because of the authorization and security checks in place. This means that available funds are confirmed before the check is processed.
How to identify fake eChecks
If you believe that you’ve been emailed a fake electronic check, speak to your bank and ask them to confirm its validity.
It’s important to report all fraudulent activity and scams to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) so they can investigate where they came from and prevent other people from being subject to scams.
There are a few things to look out for that could imply that an electronic check is counterfeit.
The quality of the image – when you take a photo of a check, the quality is expected to be lower than a high-resolution image. Be wary of check images that are detailed and clear. This is because it may have been created by image processing software and is, therefore, fake.
A bank’s logo and details – all checks should clearly display the bank’s name and logo, typically in the top left corner. Be suspicious of any checks that are missing this information.
An MICR line – authentic checks have the issuing bank’s routing number and the account number from the checking account that the funds will be taken from.
A check number that matches the MICR line – on the top right of a genuine check you should find a check number. This is either the first or third number that is on the MICR line. Both of these numbers should match.
Can you mail a check safely?
If you prefer not to rely on technology to send a check, it’s still possible to use the mail service. However, it’s definitely not the safest or recommended way to send money. This is because physical copies of checks can easily be stolen or lost.
If using your local postal service is your only option for sending a check, use these tips below to make it as secure as possible.
· Send the check via special delivery. This service marks the item as special, which means it will get to the recipient faster and there’s less chance of it getting misplaced.
· Hide the check in a letter so it’s not obvious that the item you’re mailing is a check. You could also use a greeting card to hide the check in.
· It’s also possible to restrict a check by adding “for deposit only” to the details on the check. Therefore, the only way that the recipient will be able to pay the check is by visiting a bank. There are other ways of restricting a check such as filling in the details so that the money you are paying is directly transferred to a specific bank account.
· Most postal services will also provide a tracking and confirmation feature via a priority mail service. There’s a small fee involved but it will give you peace of mind that your check has reached the recipient safely.
If you believe the check you sent via mail was stolen, you can report it to the police. It’s also important to ask your bank to stop the payment on the check to protect yourself from it getting into the wrong hands.
Electronic V paper checks
The most obvious difference is that paper checks are physical copies and electronic checks are digital. They both contain the same information but in a different format.
As described in this article, eChecks provide huge benefits that paper checks can’t match.
The financial world can be hard to navigate.
That’s why we’ve put together a library of financial resources to help people control their money.