Personal Checks

How to Avoid “Check Washing” Scams When Using Personal Checks

With the option of paying bills online, using checks to pay bills has grown uncommon. As such, it would make sense for crimes like check washing to also become uncommon, but the opposite appears true: Check washing is happening more frequently because there are still people paying bills via check in the mail. Thieves know this and find ways to acquire these checks, thus stealing money and possibly the victims’ identities.

Mail theft is rising, and these thieves steal, “wash,” and rewrite people’s personal checks. The process is simple for them to do so. First, the criminals steal the checks from either private or the official blue mailboxes. Next, they use chemicals found in essential household cleaners to erase the ink on the check and write it out to themselves for whatever amount they want. They can also use the check’s signature, account number, and routing number to order more checks, stealing more money.

The culprit doesn’t always use stolen checks. Instead, to avoid drawing attention, the thief will sell the checks to others and allow these clients to cash them out. As such, the person who cashed it may not necessarily be the one who washed and rewrote it.

This crime can be devastating. These thieves can steal an individual’s entire life savings. But, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, such as:

  • Use gel pens instead of other types, such as ballpoint pens. Black ink is preferable because it is harder to wash. Also, write your numbers close together to prevent thieves from adding numbers in-between them.
  • Use online bill pay when possible. It’s generally easy to do and will provide more security than paying by mail.
  • Be sure to use a security envelope when sending a check. It will prevent someone from seeing that there is a check inside if held up to a light.
  • Be sure to use a security envelope when sending a check. It will prevent someone from seeing that there is a check inside if held up to a light.
  • Try to mail any checks by placing them in a United States Postal Service mailbox. If possible, place them in a mailbox inside the post office, as it is safer than the boxes outside. Don’t put up the flag if you mail a check from your mailbox. The flag will alert thieves that you are sending something, piquing their interest.
  • Check your bank account frequently. Then, if you do notice anything suspicious, immediately alert your bank. Notifying your bank quickly of stolen money can increase the chances of recovering it.
  • In identity theft cases, contact the bank and police, and consider running a self-background check. The background check is crucial because it will inform you whether your identity is involved in any crimes.

Background checks don’t have to be complicated. Try running a Self Background Check today and give yourself a head start.


Your personal background check is required for literally everything in your life these days, from employers to rentals. Take control of yours.


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