Ask Amy: Ways to avoid bank fraud and a $15k water bill erased

From summer camp deposits to your property taxes, there are a lot of places that still ask for check payments. Check and bank fraud is on the rise, so be careful, because thieves are always learning new ways to steal from you. I’m here to help!

You may not think a lot of people are using checks these days but take a look at this:

  • Banks filed 680,000 check fraud reports in 2022.
  • That’s almost double the 350,000 reports filed in 2021.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network says thieves often steal checks from the U.S. mail and that’s a huge issue I’ve been tracking over the last couple of years.

You should avoid using checks!

If a business asks for a check, ask for an alternative payment method. For example, with the Harris County Tax Appraisal District, you can pay by e-check, by entering your routing and bank information directly into the system. For other places, you can ask for alternative payment methods like Venmo, Paypal, or if the person’s bank accepts e-payments.

Executive Vice President of Amegy Bank Ken Smiley joined me for an episode of Ask Amy to talk about the methods thieves are using right now.

Check digital images on your online bank statements

Ken Smiley says if you must write a check, don’t just check to see if it cleared, you should look at the actual check images too. You can usually see those in your online bank account.

KPRC 2 Investigates check fraud. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“They are all imaged. So those images will show up in your bank online system or through your app so you can quickly check to see,” said Smiley. “You can also have alerts to set up to say let me know when a check is paid.”

This is because thieves may just change the payee on the check and not the total. So if you’re not looking at the actual check that was presented to your bank you may not notice anything is wrong.

If you must write a check, follow these tips...

(Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)
  • Only use black gel ink. That’s the hardest ink to remove when crooks are washing checks.
  • A blue ballpoint pen is the easiest to remove.
  • Shred old checks if you’ve made an e-deposit with your phone.

If you are a check fraud victim file a report with the police, your bank, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service or at 877-876-2455.

Our ‘DRAINED’ KPRC 2 Investigation is getting results

(Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

A single mom in Houston’s Fifth Ward is relieved after the city of Houston wiped her $15,000 water bill. It comes just three months after KPRC 2 Investigates shared Andrea Harclerode’s story about how she had been trying to get help from the city since 2019. It was to the point when she thought she might lose her home.

She’s just one of a list of people who have messaged our team, asking for help with unusually high water bills. We are actively working to help people on the list. If you need help, email me at


ICYMI: Last week, I explained why a lot of people may get a surprise water bill. Here’s what you should do now to avoid getting a surprise and why some customers will be seeing those higher bills in the next few months.

Do you have a consumer question? Email me at!

About the Authors:

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.