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Updated: November 27, 2023 From the Editor

From the Editor: Watch your checkbook (hey, what’s a checkbook?)

A checking account seems like a relic of the past, especially with options like automated payments, debit cards and Venmo.

But while check use is way down from historic levels, there’s been a dramatic increase in check fraud, writes Senior Writer Renee Cordes.

The number of checks processed by the Federal Reserve, which handles about a third of the total, plummeted from nearly 19 billion in 1990 to 3.4 billion in 2022, as paying with debit and credit cards and automated transfers became more popular, Renee reports.

Consumers have some protections, so it’s often community banks that end up shouldering financial responsibility for the scams.

Fraudsters are having a field day. One Maine bank expects fraud costs to rob $61,000 from the bottom line, compared to $5,000 only three years ago.

See Renee’s story, “Keeping fraud in check,” which starts on Page 18.

Maine has a number of pitch competitions, which offer cash that can often fast-track a startup’s progress. Senior Writer Laurie Schreiber asked some winners of pitch competitions what the cash helped pay for.

Investment in equipment, competitive wages or improved marketing materials were three common uses.

But, interestingly, the enduring “prize” from being part of the pitch competitions is not the money involved. While the money is great, it’s often the mentoring, consulting, growth strategies and connections that are the most enduring benefit of the pitch competitions, as Laurie reports.

See “Eye on the prize,” which starts on Page 28.

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