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Is Check Washing On Your Laundry List?

July 22, 2009

The first time I ever heard about check washing was some years ago from a client of mine at one of my insurance accounts. She was signing the application with her ‘special’ pen. I asked her if it was ‘special’ because it was purple. She told me it was a gel pen that had indelible ink that can’t be washed off with water or chemicals like bleach or solvents.

Check washing is a pretty simple way thieves have of stealing your money. They chemically erase the handwritten parts of your check – most commonly the Payee (who the check is written to) and the amount. Clever thieves will only change the Payee part making it payable to themselves and leave the amount the same. You’ll probably not even notice this in your banking statement. That is, until you start to get late or unpaid notices from the company you wrote the check to – like your credit card payment, utility bills or mortgage.

Mail theft is the typical way a thief would get his hands on your checks. You put your paid bills in your mailbox in the morning and go off to work leaving them unattended and exposed to any bold thief who drives down your street. It’s not hard to figure out which envelopes contain paid bills and greeting cards many times have gift checks in them.

What can you do to prevent this type of identity theft?

  • Use a gel pen preferably black ink – Uni-ball and Avery are good choices
  • Mail letters with checks in them at the Post Office – preferably at the inside mail drop
  • Get a locking mailbox for your home
  • Do your banking online on a secure computer
  • Check your bank statements right away – Banks generally give you only 30 days to report a fraudulent transaction
  • Fill in all the lines on a check and if the Payee name is short, draw a horizontal line across the middle of the space left over to prevent anything else being written there.

 

 

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