13Investigates: Check washing is on the rise and can steal your money
Fake checks aren’t just scamming a Watervliet family. It’s a big problem that is causing serious headaches for banks and customers.
“Check washing has never been this bad,” said Greg Litster, president of SAFEChecks, a company that manufactures high security checks.
He said counterfeit checks have been around for 30 years, but they’ve skyrocketed at an alarming rate the last six to 12 months.
“The issue with fraudsters is that they’re like raptors in Jurassic Park. They’re always testing the electric fence. They’re trying to see what will work, what will not,” he said.
Litster said thieves wash checks for two main reasons. The first reason is it is easy to do. Scammers get a check, drop it in chemicals and soak it for an hour and watch ink on checks disappear.
“They can be washed completely clean, and you cannot tell the checks ever been washed,” he said.
The second reason why they do it is most heck washers rarely get arrested.
But first, they must get ahold of the checks.
“The way that we most often see this happen is checks are stolen from the mail,” said Shane Shoemaker, Broadview’s vice president of financial crimes.
He said most times check washers want to remove the name of the person being paid. Then they’ll type over that space with a new payee.
“Instead of having to like counterfeit or recreate an item entirely, they’re really just changing who it’s payable to and then going and cashing that check,” he said.
Here’s how to protect yourself:
- If you are writing a check, use a uniball pen. “The ink in this pen cannot be dissolved in chemicals. It will never wash out,” Litster said.
- Mail checks at the post office, not a mailbox.
Review your bank account every day.