In today’s technological era, we constantly have to be on the lookout for the latest trends in financial fraud. It’s ever so important to stay vigilant so that we may keep our finances right where they belong, safe in our account. However, one scam that seems to be on the rise is something that doesn’t require high-tech tools or sophisticated equipment. It’s known as check washing.
What is check washing?
Check washing is a type of financial fraud that involves the rewriting of legitimate checks to steal money from unwitting victims. The scammer takes a check written by a person and uses chemicals such as nail polish remover or abrasive materials like sandpaper to erase the original payee information (i.e., bank details and signature). They then rewrite the check with their own name, account number, and signature.
This type of fraud has become increasingly prevalent, as it does not require any sophisticated technology or expertise – making it difficult for individuals and businesses to protect themselves from this type of scam. The number one way scammers obtain checks is through the mail. Even though postal inspectors recovered over $1 billion in counterfeit checks and money orders, check washing accounts for $815 million in losses to individuals, businesses, and financial institutions per year.
Protect Yourself Against Check Washing
While there isn’t a surefire way to protect yourself from financial fraud, there are some steps you can take to minimize the threat.
1. Monitor your accounts
As with anything, early detection is vital. Be sure to regularly look at your accounts to ensure that there isn’t any fraudulent or suspicious activity. If so, report it immediately.
2. Protect unused checks
Make sure your unused checks and other financial information is in a safe place that can not be accessed by anyone else.
3. Practice safe mail habits.
Practice safe mail habits when using the mail to get your check to and from. Always opt to have the post office hold your mail when you’re out of town. This limits the theft of incoming mail. Also, when mailing a check, take it directly to the post office or drop it off right before the pickup time. This limits the amount of time it could fall into the wrong hands.
4. Use caution when writing checks.
There are little things you can do when writing checks to make it harder for scammers to utilize them. For example, using an indelible gel black ink pen makes it harder to remove information from checks. Also, leaving as little space as possible between numbers can make it difficult for scammers to fill the empty spaces. This way, they cannot write the checks for more than they’re worth.
5. Use online banking
Paying your bills online rather than sending a check through the mail is a great way to make sure your checks don’t fall into the wrong hands. Setting up online bill pay is easy through Police FCU. Benefits include the ability to:
- Organize and manage all of your bills in one place.
- Pay bills directly from your Police FCU checking account.
- Schedule recurring payments to ensure your bills are paid on time, every time – helps to eliminate late fees and forgotten bills.
- Save money on postage and checks.
- Make payments directly to any person or merchant in the U.S.
Unfortunately, check washing fraud can have serious consequences for both individuals and businesses. By following the above tips and staying vigilant, you can help protect yourself from becoming a victim of this scam. While there are risks associated with this type of fraud, the best protection is awareness.
Don’t hesitate to take the next steps in protecting your account. Set up your online bill pay today with Police FCU and give yourself further protection and peace of mind against financial fraud. Need help or have more questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us today!