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Check Washing and Check Theft Scams

July 09, 2024

Did you know that The United States Postal Inspection Service recovers more than $1 billion in fraudulent checks and money orders each year? If you mailed a check that was paid, but the recipient never received it, you may be a victim of recent check scams.

WHAT IS CHECK WASHING?

Fraudsters often target paper checks sent through the mail. They take this check and use chemicals to "wash" the check which allows them to change the amount or make themselves the payee. Then, they deposit or cash your check and steal your money.

Postal inspectors across the country work hard to protect your mail. Keep your checks safe by following these tips:

PROTECT YOUR MAIL

  • Get your mail promptly after delivery. Don't leave it in your mailbox overnight.
  • If you're heading out of town, ask the post office to hold your mail until you return.
  • Sign up for informed delivery with USPS. You will receive daily email notifications of incoming mail and packages.
  • Contact the sender if you don't receive mail that you're expecting.
  • Buy security envelopes to conceal the contents of your mail.
  • Use the letter slots inside your post office to send mail.

PROTECT YOUR CHECKS

  • Use pens with permanent black ink so it is more difficult for a criminal to wash your checks.
  • Don't leave blank spaces in the payee or amount lines.
  • Don't write personal details (Social Security number, credit card information, driver's license number or phone number) on checks.
  • Use mobile or online banking to access copies of your checks and ensure they are not altered. While logged in, review your bank activity and statements for errors.
  • If your bank provides an image of a paid check, review the back of the check to ensure the endorsement information is correct and matches the intended payee.
  • Consider using e-checks, ACH automatic payments and other electronic and/or mobile payments. Learn more about Renasant Bill Pay today.
  • Follow-up with payees to make sure they received your check.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE A VICTIM

If you fall victim to check washing or check theft scams, file a report immediately with

  • Your bank and request copies of all fraudulent checks
  • Your local police department
  • The United States Postal Inspection Service at uspis.gov/report or call 1-877-876-2455

 


The full infographic is available by visiting: https://www.aba.com/news-research/analysis-guides/check-washing-and-check-theft-scams.

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