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All You Need to Know About Check Washing

All You Need to Know About Check Washing

Despite the digitization of money management, paper checks are still widely utilized.  As a result, paper check users need to keep an eye out for potential scams, such as check washing.

Unfortunately, instances of this crime often go unnoticed until it’s too late to undo the damage. Here’s what you need to know about these schemes.

How the scams play out

person writing check

In a check-washing scam, a scammer steals checks from the mail, changes the payee name and/or dollar amount, and then deposits the checks into their own account or accounts.

The scammer pulls off this ruse by stealing outgoing mail from private mailboxes or lifting envelopes out of public mailboxes. They then use household chemicals such as acetone or bleach to erase the ink on the stolen checks before rewriting the numbers and/or payee info. With these steps complete, they deposit the checks into their own accounts.

Under the radar

confused asian man reading mail

Scammers may also use the checking account details found on the check to commit further crimes against the check-writer, such as identity theft. The victim may only learn about these crimes upon receiving overdraft notices or being informed that their ID is no longer valid.

Check washing is a particularly dangerous scam because victims may not realize it has happened for weeks. They may only learn of it when they review their checking account statement and discover that the check amount and/or payee has been altered. If you think you are a victim of check-washing fraud, call Elevate as soon as possible at (435) 723.3437.

Protect yourself

woman putting paper in envelope

  • When possible, use mobile and online banking services and P2P systems instead of checks.
  • When writing checks, use black gel ink.
  • Hand mail containing checks or other sensitive info directly to your carrier or bring it to the post office.
  • Never leave your mailbox full overnight.
  • When mailing checks, use envelopes that have security tinting.
  • Shred all canceled and remotely deposited checks, credit card statements, and bills.
  • Review your checking account activity often. Ensure all checks have cleared for the correct amount and to the correct payee.
  • Write out your checks to a specific person or business; not “cash.”

Follow the tips outlined here to keep yourself safe from check-washing scams.

Want to know more about potential scams and other financial tips? Check out the rest of our MoneySmart Tips Blog.



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