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Check Washing

Preview:Scam Alert

Crooks can wash the names and values off checks and fill in whatever they want. Here's how it works and what you should do.

The US Postal inspectors recover more than one billion dollars of counterfeit checks every year and the number is growing. I don't know how many of these checks are not recovered by the Postal inspectors. They normally use chemicals to wash the recipient's name and the amount from the check. Then fill it in with their information and cash it. Sometimes they make copies of the check so they can cash it multiple times. These checks are normally stolen from your mailbox or from the recipient's mail.

What Can You Do?

The best and safest thing to do is don't write checks. This is a 100% perfect solution. No one can wash non-existent checks, well perhaps in dreams, but we won't worry about that. I do accept checks as payment, but you can also send me money through Zelle, Credit Card or PayPal. Square process my credit card payments.

Here are some other ways to mitigate the problem.
  • Use a gel pen to write your checks. These soak into the paper and are harder to wash.
  • Use special security checks. Printers and banks are now selling more expensive checks to mitigate this issue.
  • Make sure your mailbox has a lock.
  • Pay your bills online, not by check.
  • Monitor your accounts online

Further Reading (and watching)

  • Greenbay, Wisconsin, ABC News report with short video.
  • Link to Amazon Uniball retractable Gel Pen 2-pack designed to mitigate fraud.
  • JetPens' article and recommendations for the best check writing pens.
  • Intuit's security checks sales pitch. Still, it has good information.
  • USPS article and videos on check washing

Date: January 2024

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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