Check Washing is a Real Thing

Some tips to help avoid becoming a victim
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Check washing has become a real problem in today's society. Crooks steal checks from mailboxes and "wash" the checks by removing the ink with solvents. They keep your signature but wash $ amounts and payee's name off. Then they write in a large amount and make it out to themselves. So when they go to cash it, it's your real signature on the check. Most people don't know this has even occurred until other checks they wrote start to bounce or they get their statement later in the month. What can you do to help avoid this happening to you? While there's no foolproof way to stop fraud in general, here are a few tips to help protect yourselves from check washing a little better.

1.) (Seems apparent but) Don't write checks. Use Electronic Services like Venmo, PayPal or Zelle to send people money. Set up payments directly with your providers for electronic ACH payment for your bills. Utilites, mortgage companies, car payments etc can all be set up to happen automatically from your bank account to the provider. Some will even take credit cards. Be vigilant on who you're giving your information to however.

2.) Don't put your check in a mailbox. Take your mail inside the post office or give it directly to your postal worker. Thieves look for the "red flag" on mailboxes and some even have cloned keys for the blue drop boxes. So take your mail directly into the post office and hand it to a human or if convenient, hand deliver the check to the recipient and don't use the mail at all.

3.) Write your checks with pens that have special inks that are harder, if not nearly impossible to wash. Not all ink is the same. Some wash easily with acetone. Others embed themselves in the paper fiber and are extremely difficult to wash. You can use your favorite search engine to find out more about them by searching "pens to avoid check washing" There are some interesting videos out there as well showing how criminals wash the checks as well.

4.) Watch your accounts and set up fraud alerts. Sign up for online access and check your bank accounts often for fraudulent activity. You can actually catch the check from being processed if you catch it and act quickly enough. If available, set up fraud alerts with your bank so that if a check over a certain amount gets cashed you get a warning.

While we'll never be able to completely avoid the fraudsters out there, at least make it harder for them to make you a victim by following these tips.

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