Cheque fraud on the rise over the festive season

Cheques are the most frequently defrauded means of payment in France, ahead of bankcards. During the festive season, when people tend to spend a lot of money, scams are on the increase. The Banque de France is sounding the alarm.

Cheques are the most fraudulent means of payment in France

Although the use of cheques is declining in France (-25% between 2019 and 2020), they are still the 3rd most popular payment method, with 1.2 billion transactions for a total value of 614 billion euros in 2020.

In 2020, the cheque was the most defrauded means of payment in France. The total amount of cheque fraud was 538 million euros in 2020, stable compared to 2019.

But as this means of payment is less widely used, the fraud rate is proportionally higher, rising from 0.066% to 0.088% between 2019 and 2020. By way of comparison, the fraud rate for bankcards is 0.068%, even though the French make far greater use of this means of payment.

Precautions to take to avoid cheque fraud

According to the Banque de France, there are two reasons why cheques are the most frequently defrauded means of payment.

First of all, fraud is more complex with other payment methods, notably bankcards, thanks to enhanced security. The introduction of strong authentication for online credit card payments, which requires the buyer to validate two security criteria, has helped to reduce fraud. But fraudsters are not giving up, and are turning to the less secure cheque.

Secondly, according to the Banque de France, as cheques are less widely used, consumers tend to lose their security reflexes, which explains the high fraud rate.

During the Christmas period, it's important to be particularly careful, as scams are more numerous. Many cheque payments are made in the weeks leading up to the festive season: households pay their utilities to the property manager, make donations to associations, buy or resell gifts on private sales websites, send deposits to reserve their holiday rentals, etc.

In its 2020 annual report "Observatoire de la sécurité des moyens de paiement", the Banque de France reminds us of good practices:

  • use black ink, which is more difficult to forge;
  • do not cross out ;
  • fill in the blank spaces, particularly in the area reserved for the amount or order, by drawing horizontal lines ;
  • or fill in all the required information.

While these precautions are essential, you should also bear in mind that in the majority of cases, fraud is committed on blank cheques. As a result, you need to be very careful with your checkbook. It should be kept in a safe place at home, and preferably collected from a branch rather than sent by post.

The Banque de France recommends that the French reserve cheques for transactions " between people they trust ", and use other means of payment when " relations become more distant ".