Check washing is a form of fraud that involves altering a check to change the payee, amount, or other details. This type of fraud is becoming increasingly common, and it can be difficult to detect. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from check washing. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best ways to avoid check washing and keep your finances safe.
What is Check Washing?
Check washing is a type of fraud that involves altering a check to change the payee, amount, or other details. This is typically done by using chemicals to erase the ink on the check, allowing the fraudster to rewrite the check with different information. Check washing can be difficult to detect, especially if the fraudster is skilled at forging handwriting and signatures.
How Does Check Washing Happen?
Check washing can happen in a number of ways. One common method is for fraudsters to steal checks from mailboxes or other unprotected locations. They then use chemicals to remove the ink and alter the check to their advantage. Another method is for fraudsters to create fake checks using stolen or fabricated bank account information. These checks are then washed and altered to make them appear legitimate.
How Can You Avoid Check Washing?
There are several steps you can take to avoid check washing:
1. Use Secure Mailboxes
One of the easiest ways for fraudsters to obtain checks is by stealing them from mailboxes. To avoid this, use a secure mailbox that requires a key to access. If you don’t have access to a secure mailbox, consider using a P.O. Box instead.
2. Monitor Your Bank Account
Regularly monitoring your bank account can help you detect any unauthorized activity, including check washing. If you notice any suspicious transactions, contact your bank immediately.
3. Use a Gel Pen
Gel pens are less likely to be washed away than regular ballpoint pens, making them a good option for writing checks. Using a gel pen can make it harder for fraudsters to alter the information on your checks.
4. Use Security Features
Many checks come with built-in security features, such as watermarks, microprinting, and chemical alteration detection. Be sure to use checks with these features to make it harder for fraudsters to alter your checks.
5. Be Careful When Discarding Checks
When you’re done with a check, be sure to shred it before discarding it. This can help prevent fraudsters from obtaining your personal information.
6. Use Online Bill Pay
Online bill pay is a secure way to pay bills without having to write physical checks. This can help reduce your risk of check washing.
7. Don’t Write Blank Checks
Writing blank checks can make it easy for fraudsters to alter the information on the check. Only write checks for specific amounts and to specific payees.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Check Washing?
If you suspect that one of your checks has been washed, there are several steps you should take:
1. Contact Your Bank
Contact your bank immediately and let them know that you suspect check washing. They may be able to stop the payment or take other measures to prevent further fraud.
2. File a Police Report
File a police report with your local law enforcement agency. This can help document the fraud and may make it easier to recover any lost funds.
3. Monitor Your Accounts
Regularly monitor your bank accounts for any unauthorized activity. If you notice any suspicious transactions, contact your bank immediately.
Check washing is a serious form of fraud that can result in significant financial losses. By taking steps to protect yourself, such as using secure mailboxes, monitoring your bank accounts, and using security features on your checks, you can reduce your risk of check washing. If you suspect that one of your checks has been washed, be sure to contact your bank immediately and file a police report.