Check Washing Fraud
Have you ever sent a check that was cashed, but the recipient said it never arrived? You may be the victim of check washing. Check washing scams involve changing the payee names and often the dollar amounts on checks and fraudulently depositing them. Occasionally, these checks are stolen from mailboxes and washed in chemicals to remove the ink. Some scammers will even use copiers or scanners to print fake copies of a check.
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6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Check-Washing Fraud
- Pay your bills online. As long as you’re not on a public Wi-Fi connection, paying bills online is safer than a check through the mail.
- Deliver your mail to a post office. Don’t leave envelopes containing checks in your own mailbox or in outdoor USPS collection boxes after the last pickup time, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service recommends. Best bet: Take your letter to your nearest post office during business hours and either hand it to a clerk or slide it through an outgoing mail slot inside the building.
- Use a pen with blue or black gel ink. Gel ink soaks into paper and may be more difficult to remove than ballpoint pen ink, according to authorities. Make sure the gel pen is non-erasable.
- Don’t let delivered mail sit in your mailbox. Grab your mail every day, as close to the delivery time as possible. If you’ll be away, ask a trusted friend to collect it or have the post office hold it until you’re back home.
- Monitor your bank account. Don’t wait for your monthly statement. Go online every few days to review account balances and look at checks drawn against them.
- Report incidents quickly. Contact your bank as soon as possible after suspicious activity and contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and credit reporting agencies.