A few years ago, we sent my nephew a high school graduation gift. He left for college with a fistful of gift cards and checks. Apparently, he was just making it rain. What he didn’t take into consideration were all the bank accounts tied to those checks he managed to scatter haphazardly around after each electronic deposit.
I’m sure we all hope our children are financially savvy. I congratulate any of you who have successfully raised a financially responsible adult. I feel that even the most practical student can make mistakes as he/she maneuvers the next stages of adulting, whether it be a first apartment, car payment or college loan. It isn’t enough to be able to adeptly maneuver around a variety of social media apps or transfer money via Venmo or PayPal, or electronically deposit a check.
My nephew failed to realize that an electronic deposit didn’t absolve him of his need to destroy documents or checks after each deposit. It turns out his “welcome to college” included a not-so-reputable hallmate who fished through the garbage, Photoshopped a few extra zeros onto each tossed check, and electronically deposited the modified graduation checks into his own account. (Mind you, this person was not a master criminal and was easily traced by the police. He may not have been a criminal before, but he is most definitely one now.) Thankfully our bank notified us when our mortgage slowly disappeared into a Midwestern account.
It was embarrassing for my nephew, who “knew better,” and a hassle for us to try to get back our stolen funds. I’m not sure everyone involved was as fortunate. I’m sure some people regretted their gifts. Some people may not have noticed the theft as quickly or been able to shut it down as deftly. The experience did allow us to make sure our children understood the importance of shredding important documents and to always update security measures on their own online accounts.
We can all get complacent with the ease of online banking and immediate transfers of funds. Please be careful. Make sure your future adults know which documents need to be shredded or burned if allowed (such as bank or credit card statements, taxes after four years, pay stubs, any forms with Social Security or license numbers). If all incoming statements are online, please opt for any/all means of securing the account. Most of all, if someone does give you a graduation check, please dispose of it securely. Stay safe!