By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD
Check washing scams involve changing the payee names and often the dollar amounts on checks and fraudulently depositing or cashing them. These checks are stolen from the mail and washed in chemicals to remove the ink. And this isn’t a thought leadership exercise… this happened to us recently! So please consider this a public service announcement worth taking seriously. Okay, here is the story.
We mailed a check to a vendor in St. Louis, the check was stolen, washed, and cashed for $17,483.15 in unincorporated Fresno, TX.
When we figured out this had happened, we reached out to our bank for help. nbkc Bank had to shut down all transactions coming in and out of our checking account – thousands of them every month with the portals, ACH, checks written and deposited and our company debit cards. They’ve been incredibly helpful through this entire scary experience.
I’m three weeks into this mess and still dealing with the bank every single day.
Check fraud is not a thing of the past – and these days, it can involve sophisticated criminal operations. Check fraud is back in a big way, fueled by a rise in organized crime that is forcing small businesses and individuals to take safety measures or to avoid sending checks through the mail altogether.
How can you protect yourself?
- Consider making all payments through ACH
- Use pens with indelible black ink so that it is more difficult to wash your checks – you can buy them on Amazon.
- If you receive paid checks back from the bank, shred them.
- Use online banking to review copies of your checks to ensure they were not altered. (That is how we found out!)
- Do not mail business checks in a window envelope.
The United State Postal Service also recommends that you:
- Do not drop off your email in collection boxes after the last scheduled pick-up or directly at your local Post Office.
- Do not leave your mail in your mailbox overnight.
- If you’re heading out of town, have the Post Office hold your mail.
What to do if you are a victim?
- Call your financial institution immediately.
- File a report with your local police department.
- File a report with the Post Office online at uspis.gov/report.
Please follow my advice and best wishes for this not to happen to you!
p.s. order that indelible ink pen from Amazon today!