Warning: Live in Washington? Stop Sending Checks in the Mail!

If you’re like me and have tossed a check in a mailbox - You’re placing yourself at risk for fraud. 

Checks are a common gift for birthdays, weddings, and graduations. Mailing a check to someone on the other side of the mountains for a gift or contractor services seems easy and safe.

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Criminals know this and the United States Postal Service has seen a rather sharp increase in the number of mailboxes and mail carriers targeted by criminals - attempting to commit check fraud. 

This is the most disturbing statistic: There were over 300 incidents of postal carriers being robbed on duty during the first half of 2023. If you’ve dropped off mail into one of those blue traditional US Postal Service mailboxes - 35,000 blue collection boxes were compromised, during the first half of 2023.

So How Do Thieves Get into a Blue USPS Mailbox?

The Criminals use a string with a sticky note attached to “fish” the envelopes containing the checks from a mailbox.

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How Do Thieves Get Money From Your Stolen Check?

They then use common solvents such as acetone, brake fluid, or bleach to “wash” the amount and payee from the check. They leave the person’s signature to make it look as if the victim signed the check with the new amount and payee’s name, according to the Westchester County district attorney’s office.

A person is then paid to walk the check to a bank to cash it and collect the money to complete the fraud. So, a $200 check to a window washer suddenly becomes a $2,000 that ends up in the hands of the bad guys.

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What Can You Do if You Have to Mail a Check?

  • Use a pen with long-lasting black “gel ink.” - A $2 gel pen can foil would-be ‘check washers’
  • The USPS suggests bringing envelopes containing checks into a secure post office, rather than dropping them in a blue box or leaving it in your mailbox.
  • If going into a post office to mail your check isn’t possible - make sure you drop off a check in a US Postal Service mailbox BEFORE the final scheduled pick-up. Otherwise, it could sit there overnight, or for days.
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INFO: Better Business Bureau, US Postal Service.

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