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Mail Fraud - Check Washing

What is Check Washing?

Check washing is a form a fraud in which criminals erase a check’s legitimate information usually using chemicals and then rewrite the amount of the check and the name of the payee.

How Do Criminals Find Checks?

Checks can be stolen from businesses, directly from the blue collection boxes, or by canvasing neighborhoods looking for outgoing mail left in personal mailboxes waiting to be picked up. 

What is the Check Washing Process?

Criminals use chemicals such as nail polish remover, bleach, or paint thinner to dissolve the ink to remove the payee and dollar amount. They will place a sticker or tape over the signature to keep it intact. Once the ink is completely dissolved, they will hang the check up to dry. The final product is a signed blank check that will be used to rewrite and cash themselves or sell an item on the dark web for fast cash.  Remember: the criminals kept your legitimate signature, which makes these checks difficult to spot since they match the signature on file.

What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risk of Being a Victim of Check Washing?

  • Deposit mail at a post office or just before the last pickup of the day at the blue collection boxes located outside.
  • Never leave mail in your mailbox overnight.
  • If you are going on vacation, hold your mail at the post office or have it picked up daily by a trusted friend or relative.
  • Do not leave outgoing mail in residential mailboxes – the red flag is an indicator of outgoing mail and a welcome sign for a criminal looking for checks.
  • Log into your online banking to view your accounts as well as checks that have posted. You view check images using online or mobile banking.
  • Carefully review your monthly bank statements.
  • Consider paying your bills online.
  • Avoid inks that can be easily erased like blue ball point ink pens and permanent markers. Experts say gel pens with black ink provide the best protection against check washing.

If you believe that your account information may have been compromised as a result of mail theft or check washing, it is important that you contact us immediately so that we can assist you.