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How to protect yourself from scammers and ‘check washing’ l GMA

Check-Washing Scam

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.

Scam Explained

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.



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