Check Theft Scams

Check theft and check washing scams continue to be a growing area of concern, with the United States Postal Inspection Service recovering more than $1 billion in fraudulent checks and money orders every year. Fraudsters are always looking for paper checks sent through the mail. They use chemicals to erase or “wash” the writing so they can replace it with their name and the amount of their choice.

Here are some suggestions from the ABA Foundation and the United States Postal Inspection Service on how to protect yourself from check theft and check washing schemes.

How to Protect Your Mail

  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight.
  • Ask the post office to hold your mail when you are out of town.
  • Sign up for informed delivery notifications on to inform you of incoming mail and packages.
  • Contact the sender if you didn’t receive mail you were expecting.
  • Use security envelopes when sending mail.
  • Mail letters and packages at the post office.

How to Protect Your Checks

  • Use pens with permanent black ink.
  • Fill up all the space on the payee and amount lines.
  • Don’t include personal information such as your Social Security number, credit card information, driver’s license number, or phone number.
  • Review copies of your checks in online banking or in your banking app.
  • Follow up with the recipients of your checks to make sure they receive them.

Steps to Take if You Think You Are a Victim of Check Theft

File a report with the following:

  • Your bank. Also, request copies of the check(s).
  • The local police department.
  • The United States Postal Inspection Service.
    • 1-877-876-2455

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