Even though fewer of us are using paper checks, the number of scams involving checks is on the rise. Mail theft-related check fraud generally targets the U.S. Mail in order to steal personal checks, business checks, tax refund checks, and checks related to government assistance programs, such as Social Security payments and unemployment benefits. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) said scammers will steal signed checks from the mail and use chemicals to wipe out the dollar amount, increasing it to a larger figure. They’ll then wash away the recipient’s name on the check and make it payable to a fake identity before cashing it.
USPIS reported recovering more than $1 billion in counterfeit checks and money orders each year. Here are 6 tips, provided by the USPIS, that consumers (individuals & businesses) can protect themselves:
Tips to Avoid Check Washing:
- Avoid mailing checks.
- Only drop mail in blue boxes during pickup hours – do not let your check sit in the box overnight.
- Do not leave mail in your mailbox overnight.
- Use electronic bill pay or transfers whenever possible. Set up direct payments for accounts in lieu of using checks.
- If you are going on vacation, have your mail held at the Post Office or have a trusted friend or neighbor pick it up daily.
- Monitor your accounts frequently, especially if you have checks that have not cleared.
What To Do If You Suspect Check Washing:
If you suspect possible check washing, please take the following steps:
- Contact your bank immediately.
- Report the information to local police
- File a report with the Postal Inspection Service.