In the last few weeks, we have had several cases of mail theft in town and resulting fraud due to the thieves "washing" residents' personal checks. This can add up to thousands of dollars out of your bank account with little opportunity to recover the funds. Please read the information below and take all needed steps to protect your assets.
What is check washing and how is it used?
Criminals steal paper checks sent through the mail, for example, by fishing them from USPS mailboxes or by taking them out of your personal mailbox. They may even rob postal workers in search of checks. Once they have a check you wrote and mailed, for example, to a charity, they use chemicals to “wash” the check in order to change the amount or make themselves the payee. They then deposit your check and steal money from your account. If you have mailed a check that was paid, but the recipient never received it, you may be a check washing victim.
How can you protect yourself?
- Consider making payments using e-check, ACH automatic payments and other electronic and/or mobile payments.
- Use pens with indelible black ink so it is more difficult to wash your checks.
- Follow up with charities and other businesses to make sure they received your check.
- Use online banking to review copies of your checks to ensure they were not altered.
- If you still receive paid checks back from the bank, shred – don’t just trash them.
- Regularly review your bank activity and statements for errors.
- Don’t leave blank spaces in the payee or amount lines of checks you write.
The United States Postal Inspection Services also recommends that you:
- Drop off mail in blue collection boxes before the last scheduled pick-up time or directly at your local Post Office.
- Regularly check your mail. Do not leave your mail in your mailbox overnight.
- If you’re heading out of town, have the Post Office hold your mail or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
What to do if you’re a victim?
File a report immediately with:
- The United States Postal Inspection Service at https://www.uspis.gov/report or call 1-877-876-2455
- Your local police department - Barkhamsted's Resident State Trooper (860-379-8782 or email@example.com)
- Your financial institution
For more information, please click on the AARP link below.