ABC News’ Whit Johnson shares new warnings about “check washing,” where criminals steal checks from the mail, remove the ink and then forge fake information to cash in the money. A low-tech financial fraud scam being conducted even in today’s high-tech world. Thieves are stealing paper checks from mailboxes, “washing” them with nail polish remover, and filling in new amounts and payees — causing endless grief for victims and their banks, which typically foot the bill. The black market for “glass” — pilfered checks sold online, with a guarantee they’ll clear at the bank — is growing more widespread and sophisticated. Crooks are branching into stolen account numbers and identity theft, and selling the “arrow keys” mail carriers use to open multiple boxes. Lots of mail — including mail-in voter ballots — is getting dumped after thieves pfilfer the checks.
The scam is very low-tech! Thieves either “fish” letters out through the mail slot or — more commonly now — rob postal workers for their mail and arrow keys. The arrow keys are being sold by sellers to willing buyers from $1,000 to $7,000 per key. The amount paid depends on the amount of mailboxes in the particular zip code. Thieves can sell stolen personal checks for up to $250 each and washed business checks can sell for up to $650.
Low-Tech Scam Revival
The check-washing scam has been around for years. However, it saw new life during the COVID pandemic. This is because there was an increase in stolen stimulus checks and unemployment benefits being sent via mail to recipients homes. Even homes with central area locked mailboxes are not safe because of the theft of the mail access keys. So stay safe and retrieve your mail as soon as possible everyday. This will go a long way towards avoiding having your mail stolen and checks washed. Stay safe and be alert.