We see the question arise sometimes when our family or friends are selling a car or another valuable item on the secondhand market and the interested party offers to make the purchase with a check. While that was once a common form of payment, are checks safe to accept in 2022?
While most of us are using more modern methods of payment these days, checks still exist and it’s important to use caution when someone tries to pay you, or the person you’re caring for, with a check as it could easily be a scam.
Luckily, it’s a pretty simple lesson in order to stay safe. If you or your loved one is selling some items at a garage sale or over an internet sales channel like Facebook Marketplace, and the person is unwilling to pay with a modern, verifiable source, your best bet is to:
a) Ask for them to get a certified check from their bank and,
b) Ask them to meet you at your own bank where you can verify and deposit the check (certified or not) before completing the sale.
This process is essentially turning the modern payment apps into an analog process. You’ll be having them verify their money with their own bank and then you’ll be having your bank verify their money and immediately depositing it into your account before completing the transaction and handing over the goods.
The reason for this is that it is relatively easy to forge a check and you don’t want to see your or your loved one’s belongings stolen because of a lack of due diligence.
If meeting up at a bank seems over the top, consider one of the below options instead of accepting a check for payment.
Safer Payment Options
While any payment option has vulnerable points, there are numerous modern options these days that are more verifiable than an easily forgeable check. Apps like the ones listed below provide instant transfer of funds and allow you to typically add the money right into your bank account within just 1-3 days.
If you plan to use any of these apps, just be sure you are set up and verified beforehand.
- Paypal, Venmo, or Cash App – These modern payment platforms have made sales on the secondhand market a breeze. Transacting on these platforms can be done directly from your phone or computer and the accounts are pre-approved and connected to real bank accounts so you can feel pretty close to secure that all is well. In fact, these platforms provide a nearly instant transfer of funds, which means there isn’t even an opportunity for the payor to cancel the transaction once they walk away. PayPal and Venmo are both part of the same company and Cash App is owned by Block. Both are large, publicly traded companies that comply with high levels of security.
- Apple Pay or Google Pay – Similar to the platforms above, both Apple and Google now have their own payment systems which are integrated right into your phone. They are relatively simple to set up and are safe, instant ways of sending or receiving payments.
- Cash – Cash is king, but of course, there are plenty of counterfeit bills out there. In fact, around 1 in 10,000 notes is assumed to be counterfeit. Is that enough to be worried about? Probably not. But, it doesn’t hurt to at least take a close look at the bills if you’re talking about a large transaction.
If we’re talking about $30 for a pile of old books, you likely have no need to worry, but if someone is willing to pay with cash for a relatively expensive item – like a used car – you might want to second guess their motives. If a person presents thousands of dollars in cash, you may want to follow the same advice as with a check – have them meet you at your bank so that a professional banker can count and confirm the validity of the money before completing the transaction.
Get Connected. Stay Protected.
If you’re concerned about a loved one, particularly an older adult, who may be a bit too trusting of others with their finances, we recommend connecting on a platform such as WayWiser. With WayWiser, you can create a Trusted Circle of family and friends, coordinate care of a loved one and monitor their financial well being to be sure they aren’t falling victim to fraudsters and scam artists.