Check Washing: How to Protect Yourself
What is It?
According to the National Check Fraud Center, check washing takes place to the tune of $815 million every year in the U.S., and it is increasing at an alarming rate.
Using a process known as check washing, mail snatchers erase the ink on a check with chemicals found in common household cleaning products or on the shelves of your local Walmart and then rewrite the checks to themselves, increasing the amount payable by hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Problem at hand:
One woman became so adept at the technique she prowled the streets with a portable computer, printer and laminating machine in her car, cranking out new identification each time she swiped a batch of bills. Of course she had to take the time to wash the ink from the two vital areas of the check, making sure she didn't tamper with the written signature.
The problem has grown so severe that many local and federal authorities have formed task forces around the country, with agents from the Postal Inspection Service, U.S. attorney's office, local police forgery units, FBI and Secret Service.
They offer the following advice to people with old-fashioned mailboxes:
Don't leave outgoing mail in an unlocked box. Take it to work, drop it in a collection box, hand it to a letter carrier or take it directly to the post office.
If you have to leave outgoing mail in your box, do it immediately before the letter carrier comes, and don't raise the mailbox flag.
Avoid leaving mail in a box on Sundays and holidays, when letter carriers don't work.
Install a lock on your box. This can be done by placing the lock on your mailbox and then cutting a small slit in the mailbox that is large enough to slide mail through, but which is not big enough for a hand to fit in. Residents also can purchase a mailbox with a lock already on it for roughly $20 at a hardware store. In both cases, you will not be able to have outgoing mail picked up.
Content retrieved from National Check Fraud Center: http://www.ckfraud.org/washing.html