What to Do If a Check Is Lost or Stolen

When you have a stolen or lost the check, you will need to act quickly to protect your finances. First,  immediately put a stop payment on that check. This does not guarantee that the check will not be cashed or negotiated, but it can help you stop the check from going through.

Unfortunately, you do not have the same recourse if you want to stop a debit card charge from going through unless your card is stolen and you report it immediately. Here's what to do if a check is lost or stolen. 

Contact Your Bank

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The first step is to contact your bank and request that they put a stop payment on the check. You will need to know the check number, the exact amount of the check, and who you made the check out to.

This information needs to be provided in order for your bank to issue a stop payment on a check. Once you make the initial phone call, the bank will have you come in within a specified amount of time to fill out and sign the official paperwork.

Worth noting, if you do not come in the stop payment will drop off. The stop payment will last for six months, but you may want to extend it to a year if you are still unsure about where the check is.

Understanding the Fees with Stop Payments

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The fees for stopping a check range from $15-$35. The bank assumes responsibility for the check if you report the information quickly enough. That is one reason for the fee.

One thing to keep in mind: If the check amount is less than the fee you’ll pay to put a stop on it, it’s not worth doing.

You should be prepared to pay the fee to stop the check, and you may need to pay it again if you have not found the missing check when the hold expires. The fee is per item, so if you had several checks stolen, they will add up quickly.

Remember to balance the amount the check was written for against the need to put a stop payment on it. If blank checks were stolen, you may want to close your checking account instead.

Consider Closing Your Account

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A stop payment is a good solution when you know of one check that was lost or stolen in the mail. It is not a good solution if your debit card or checkbook was stolen.

If either of these happens, be aware that your information might be compromised and closely monitor your account. 

Additionally, if several checks were stolen, it may be better to close out the account and open a new one. The bank can help you transfer over automatic drafts and payments when you close out the account with them. It is also important to monitor your account for a few months after the check is stolen to make sure that you do not have other fraudulent activity. Even if you open a new account, you will need to closely monitor your account for the next few months.

Watch Out for Identity Theft

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After a check is stolen, you run the same risk of identity theft that you would face after your checkbook or credit cards are stolen. You will need to monitor your credit reports over the next several months.

You can set up a flag on the credit reports that states that the bank must call you before they lend you money or to put a freeze on your credit report. If you are thinking about buying a home or car soon, this may not be very convenient, but it can save your credit report and prevent you from needing to clean up a big mess in the future.

If you do become a victim of identity theft, you will need to fill out a police report and take the legal steps to protect yourself so you can dispute the charges with the bank and recoup your money.

Prevent Your Checks from Being Lost or Stolen

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Preventing your checks from being lost or stolen can save you a major headache. Many banking transactions can now be completed online, which eliminates the need to write checks. If you do not write checks very often, keep your checkbook at home in a safe place. If you are mailing a check, you may want to send it via certified mail, depending on the amount of the check.

In addition, you should work to keep your debit card information safe. Be mindful of where you input your card number. Never use it on public computers, and be sure to keep your eyes open for any skimming devices on ATMs.

But the most important thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to monitor your account daily so you can quickly identify any fraudulent activity or charges. This can save you time – and money – in the long run.

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.