Beware of Check Washing: How Thieves Turn Your Mail into Easy Money

[SIZE=5][B]Understanding Check Washing[/B][/SIZE]

[SIZE=4][B]What Is Check Washing?[/B][/SIZE]

Check washing is a form of fraud that involves the theft of checks in order to alter them for criminal purpose. It usually starts with a thief stealing a check from the mail or acquiring it by other means. The ink on the stolen check is then chemically erased without damaging the paper, allowing the criminal to rewrite the check for a larger amount, or to a different payee. This technique exploits the chemical properties of most inks used in common pens, rendering mail-delivered checks particularly vulnerable to alteration and forgery.

[SIZE=4][B]The Process Thieves Follow to Wash Checks[/B][/SIZE]

The check washing process typically involves a few key steps that fraudsters undertake. First, they need to obtain a victim’s check, which can be done through mailbox theft, intercepting mail, or other phishing tactics. Once they have the check, the thieves use a variety of household chemicals such as acetone, bleach, and ammonia to remove the original ink. After the check is “washed,” it can be rewritten with new payee information and amount, then deposited or cashed illicitly. This process transforms a simple piece of paper into a source of illegal income for the thieves.

[SIZE=4][B]Common Tactics Used to Steal Checks[/B][/SIZE]

Criminals use a myriad of tactics to gain access to your checks. The most straightforward method is simply stealing from residential mailboxes. They might also target business mailboxes, which often contain checks for bills and services. Phishing attempts, where thieves disguise themselves as legitimate institutions to trick individuals into handing over checks, are also common. Beyond stealing, some criminals may resort to dumpster diving, retrieving checks that have not been properly disposed of. Staying vigilant of these tactics can help you protect your financial information from falling into wrong hands.

[SIZE=5][B]How to Protect Yourself from Check Washing[/B][/SIZE]

[SIZE=4][B]Best Practices for Mail Security[/B][/SIZE]

To reduce the risk of check washing, consider using locked mailboxes or post office boxes. Always collect your mail promptly to minimize the time it’s accessible to thieves. For outgoing checks, it’s advisable to drop them off directly at the post office or into a USPS mailbox. Be cautious of leaving paid bills in your mailbox for pickup, as the flag often signals to thieves that there is possibly a check inside.

[SIZE=4][B]Alternative Payment Methods[/B][/SIZE]

Considering the risk of check washing, shifting to alternative payment methods can provide added security. Online banking and electronic payments eliminate the need for physical checks, thus reducing the opportunity for them to be intercepted and washed. If you must use checks, opt for pens with fraud-prevention ink that resists check washing chemicals, such as gel pens or special pens specifically designed to combat check fraud.

[SIZE=4][B]Monitoring Your Accounts and Reporting Fraud Immediately[/B][/SIZE]

Regular monitoring of your bank accounts allows you to spot any discrepancies or unauthorized transactions quickly. Early detection is crucial in notifying your bank and law enforcement, which can enhance the chances of recovering any lost funds and catching the perpetrators. If you fall victim to check washing, report it to your bank immediately, file a police report, and consider alerting postal inspectors if mail theft was involved.


Check washing remains a prevalent threat, with the potential to cause significant financial harm to unsuspecting individuals. By understanding what check washing is, how thieves operate, and implementing preventative measures, you can reduce your risk and secure your financial transactions. Remember, vigilance, smart practices around mail security, and the adoption of secure payment alternatives are your best defenses against this type of fraud.






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