Warning: Check Fraud Is Rising
May 16, 2023
If you use paper checks and send them through the mail, it may be time to stop.
Check fraud linked to mail theft has surged across the country, according to a recent alert to banks from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, part of the Treasury Department.
The use of paper checks has been declining for decades, yet criminals have been increasingly targeting mailboxes to commit check fraud, the financial crimes network, known as FinCEN, said.
In one common approach known as “check washing,” detailed in the FinCEN alert, criminals steal signed checks from postal boxes, then use common chemicals like nail polish remover to remove the dollar amount and the name of the “payee,” or recipient. Then they rewrite the checks for a new recipient and a larger sum — often hundreds or thousands of dollars more — before cashing the check.
This article will explain check washing in detail and answers the following questions about what to do if you find yourself a victim of this crime:
- Am I liable for funds taken from my account with a washed check?
- Should I avoid mailing checks?
- What should I do if I’m a victim of check washing?