Check washing scam hits Conn. town hard

Check washing scam hits Conn. town hard

By Greg Collier

Police in West Hartford, Connecticut, have been receiving an inordinate number of complaints from residents who had checks stolen from mailboxes. Thieves will steal mail from both residential and public mailboxes in hopes they’ll find a handwritten check. Once they find a check, the thieves will attempt to remove the ink in a process called check washing. The checks will be bathed in a chemical solution that removes the handwritten ink while leaving the rest of the check intact. This allows them to rewrite the check in any amount. As long as there are sufficient funds in the account, the check can be cashed.

The West Hartford Police are saying that the thieves use a custom-made tool that allows them to steal mail from most mail collection boxes. They also say that the thieves have been taking outgoing mail from residential mailboxes as well. Banks will reimburse customers if their checks are stolen, but that won’t stop the inconvenience of a payment not reaching its intended recipient.

The best way to protect yourself against check washing is switching to all electronic payments. However, in some cases, only a check can be used. In those cases, when mailing a check, make sure to drop it off inside the post office during business hours. Leaving it in a mail collection box overnight could leave you vulnerable to mail theft. There are also special pens you can buy that are resistant to check washing. Lastly, as a good rule of thumb, you should never leave outgoing mail containing a check in your home mailbox. More mail is stolen from home mailboxes than USPS mailboxes.

While this most recent story of check washing comes from Connecticut, check washing is a problem that’s been affecting consumers nationwide.