Safe from Scams: Check Washing

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Mailing a check through the mail may not be as safe as you might think. (KFSN)

Mailing a check through the mail may not be as safe as you might think.

"This recording says you owe a payment, and I thought that was strange because I knew I had just sent the payment," fraud victim Anne Haley said.

So, Haley called her bank. The bank said the checks had been cashed.

"She pulled up my account and she showed me copies of the checks," she said.

Anne immediately knew the writing wasn't her's and the amounts were for hundreds more than she wrote.

"What they did was they changed the company I sent the check to," she explained. "They changed the amount but they left my signature on the check.

Anne was a victim of check washing when conmen chemically alter the checks to get cash immediately.

In Anne's case, they stole $3,000.

"I was upset, very upset at that time," she said. "I wasn't sure that I would get the money back."

Postal inspectors quickly realized checks were being stolen from specific mail boxes. They call it "fishing."

"It can be as simple as a piece duct tape or it can be as elaborate as metal sheet wrapped in duct tape and they'll throw that into one of our blue collection boxes and pull it out with attached string or a long tail and they will have all the mail stuck to it," US postal inspector Justin Steele said.

Inspectors say almost 30 victims lost more than $20,000 in just a four-month span.

They have simple advice. If you mail checks, take your mail inside the post office or check the collection box times.

Every collection box says when the last pick up time is or collection time is and you know if you mail right before then those checks will be picked up by the post office and will be in safe hands.

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