In the past several months, check fraud through the mail continues to rise. It is important to understand the risks involved before choosing to send payments through the mail.
Ways fraudsters are obtaining checks through the mail:*
- Fishing – an old-fashioned, but proven effective, method which they will attach something sticky to a weighted object tied to a string, drop it into a mail receptible and reel in their catch.
- Snatching mail directly from residential mailboxes when they see the red flag is up.
- Breaking into cluster-mailbox units.
- Getting hands on “arrow keys”, that open multiple mailboxes within a certain area.
Once they obtain the money:
- “Washing” stolen checks by using any ink-dissolvable household chemical. This allows them to make the check out to whomever they want, change the dollar amount, and forge a signature.
- Recruiting people experiencing homelessness or hurting financially to serve as “runners”. With the job to deposit a forged check, and then withdrawal the money to the criminals getting a cut of the money for themselves.
What is Check Washing?
Check washing fraud is a method scammers use by using acetone, or another ink-dissolvable chemical to carefully remove the information on the check. They then will use the same type of ink that was originally used on the check to fill out the check with new information. This allows the scammer to get the money that was supposed to belong to the person who the check was written out to.
Scammers use this method because it does not involve much skill in order to be successful.
Alternatively, to avoid potential fraud, the safest way to send payment is electronically.
Go paperless by making payments electronically through FMFCU’s Online/Mobile Banking services- including:
If you choose to still send or receive payments through the mail, follow these tips to avoid potential check fraud:
- Use your local post office and hand the envelope directly to a U.S. postal service employee.
- Avoid both public and post office drop boxes.
- Avoid leaving incoming or outgoing mail sitting in your mailbox for an extended time, particularly overnight.
- Sign up for tracking of your mail through USPS website.
- When making out a check, write out the amount so the words fill out the line. This makes it more difficult for someone to alter it without washing off the ink. Also make sure the numeric amount fills the box on the far-right side of the check.
- Use a black gel pen. It makes it more difficult to completely remove the ink.