App version: 0.1.0

What to Do if You Lose Your Checkbook

What to Do if You Lose Your Checkbook?
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated August 8, 2023
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
If you’ve misplaced your checkbook or a single check, you might be worried it will fall into the wrong hands. You may be wondering what someone can do with a lost check, if they’re able to take money out of your account, and what you can do to prevent that from happening.Not to worry. Let’s talk about what to do if you lose your checkbook so you avoid potential fraud and issues with your bank account.

What Can Someone Do with a Lost Check?

When first opening a checking account, you may have decided to get paper checks you could use to pay for purchases. While checks can come in handy, they can also be a hassle if someone steals them or you accidentally misplace them.Because it’s harder to verify identity with a check, someone could easily write themselves a check from your bank account and cash that money. It’s possible to cash a check without a bank account, which makes it tough to track down the culprit.Still, there are measures you can take if you lose your checkbook. 

Detecting Suspicious Activity from Lost Checks in Your Account

If you lose your checkbook, first start by making sure it’s truly lost. If you last saw it in your home, it’s unlikely that anyone stole it. But if your checkbook was in your purse and you came home and it wasn’t there, you’ll need to continue with the following steps.Just like you’d do if you were concerned about debit card fraud, start by looking at your bank account to see if there’s any suspicious activity.If you don’t see anything odd, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Your checks are still out in the world, so it’s important to keep an eye on your account to help prevent fraudulent activity.

Prevent Fraudulent Activities with Lost Checks

A lost checkbook can quickly put you in the negative if someone decides to start writing and cashing checks from it without your authorization.If you're certain your checkbook is lost, you need to contact your bank and freeze your account. Let them know that you no longer have your checkbook, and they’ll help you through this process.Once your account is frozen, you (and anyone else who might try to cash one of your checks) can’t make any transactions from your account.Another option is to ask your bank to stop each check that is no longer in your possession. That means that if someone tries to cash check #234 and you have a stop on it, the payment won’t go through.The worst case is you will have to close your checking account and open another one. Your bank advisor can help you determine if this is the best course of action. In the case of you losing an entire checkbook, it may be safer to start over with a new bank account than to put a stop on dozens of checks that someone could write.

What You Should Do in Case You Lose Your Checkbook

If you lose your checkbook, take action swiftly to avoid fraudulent activity.

Step 1: Look for the Lost Checkbook

Before you jump to the conclusion that your checkbook has been stolen or lost, check around your house first. Where do you normally keep it? Where do you last remember having it? If you have a joint account with a partner, talk to your partner to see if they used the checkbook before taking more drastic measures.

Step 2: Look at Your Transaction History

Next, review your account to see if there are any checks cashed that you didn’t write. If there are, contact your bank immediately. Have the check number and the amount handy.It’s important to do this as soon as you realize your checkbook is missing because if there are pending checks, you may be able to stop payment on them before they clear.

Step 3: Contact Your Bank

Even if you don’t (yet) see any charges you didn’t make on your account, reach out to your bank to tell them your checkbook is out of your hands. They can advise you on the best steps forward, which may include stopping payment on the check numbers that are missing, freezing your account, or completely shutting it down to open a new one.

Step 4: Find Out Your Bank’s Policies

If a check has already been cashed or deposited from your missing checkbook, find out from your bank what its policies are. Will it reverse the charge? Do you have to pay a fee or cover the amount? If the bank determines the charge was indeed fraudulent, they are obligated to reverse the charge and return the money to your account.It’s a good idea to have money in a savings account so that, in the event that someone writes checks from your account, you won’t go into the negative. If you have overdraft protection, your bank will take money from your savings to cover the debit. This keeps you from having to pay overdraft fees.Recommended: Is It Possible to Write a Check From a Savings Account?

Best Practices to Avoid Check Fraud

In a perfect world, if you lost your checkbook, a stranger would return it and all would be well in the world. But unfortunately, there are people out there who are looking for opportunities to take advantage of you (and your money).To minimize the risk of losing your checkbook or having it stolen, keep it in a safe place in your home. Use debit cards, credit cards, or cash to pay for purchases when you can. Never let someone borrow your checkbook, and keep an eye on your bank account to make sure there aren’t unauthorized purchases.The better attention you put on your finances, the less likely it is that you will be taken advantage of. And if you do lose your checkbook, act immediately to minimize the potential damage.

The Takeaway

Losing your checkbook is scary, but by taking action immediately, you can hopefully prevent any fraudulent activity from occurring. First, look around for your checkbook to make sure it was indeed stolen or lost. Next, you’ll want to contact your bank immediately, as they can advise you on its policies and what the next steps are. Worst case, you’ll need to close your account and open a new one. Ideally, the bank will put a stop payment on your checks and you’ll be able to locate your checkbook within a few days.Because checkbooks can get lost or stolen, it’s a good idea to have a savings account in addition to a checking account. That way, you can still access some of your money if needed.If you’re looking for a savings account that earns a high interest rate, Lantern can help you compare savings accounts, including fees and minimize balances.Explore high-yield savings accounts with Lantern by SoFi today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you cancel a checkbook if you lose it?
Do banks charge to cancel a lost check?
Can someone cash a lost check?
Photo credit: iStock/wdstock

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
Share this article: