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Safest Way to Mail a Check, According to Experts

December 20, 2023

If you're about to send checks as holiday gifts, take this advice to prevent tampering. 

Postal Inspectors recover more than $1 billion in counterfeit checks and money orders every year, but you can take steps to protect yourself.

Check-washing scams involve changing the payee names and the dollar amounts on checks and fraudulently depositing them. Checks are stolen from mailboxes and washed in chemicals to remove the ink, and some scammers even go as far as using copiers or scanners to print fake copies of the document.

Ryan Moody, senior VP of payments product management at the marketing solutions firm Vericast, said fraud across nearly all methods of payment is on the rise — including checks.

“If you were to look broadly, fraud across payments is up,” Moody said. “Fraud is a topic [that’s] really everywhere, whether you’re talking about identity theft or things like that. Check fraud has not been left alone in that broader fraud trend.”

“Check consumers and check users skew older [and] certainly it skews typically higher income,” Moody added. “Those are things that are not great factors when you’re talking about the kind of the targets around this, from a fraud point of view.”

More than 400 on-duty letter carriers were robbed in fiscal 2022. USPS said in May that another 300 letter carriers were robbed on their routes so far in fiscal 2023.

USPS is also reporting an increase in thefts from blue collection boxes. The agency saw more than 38,500 incidents in FY 2022. Halfway through this fiscal year, USPS reported 25,000 blue collection box thefts.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHECKS

Officials are doing everything they can to combat mail theft but there are steps individuals can take as well, including one as simple as using a gel pen to fill out checks they plan to mail.

Gel pens are harder for fraudsters to change because of the way the ink is absorbed into the paper.

“When those chemicals get applied to a check that has that ink absorbed into the paper, those chemicals don’t stand much of a chance against that, so it’s very easy to see that check has been modified,” Moody said.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CHECK WASHING

Postal Inspector Michael Martel said individuals can often prevent mail theft by not leaving mail uncollected in their mailbox for long periods, or opting to mail checks at a nearby post office.

“You can significantly reduce the chance of being victimized simply by removing mail from your mailbox every day,” he said.

Martel also urged individuals to track the status of incoming mail through Informed Delivery, a feature that sends USPS customers daily emails with scans of mail and packages they’re about to receive.

https://federalnewsnetwork.com/workforce/2023/09/postal-inspection-service-outlines-steps-to-address-alarming-rise-in-letter-carrier-robberies/?readmore=1

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