What is Check Washing? Definition, Best Way To Avoid Fraud

Have you ever mailed a cheque that was cashed, but the recipient claimed they never received it? You may be subject to check washing. Changing the payee names and frequently the monetary amounts on checks and then depositing them illegally constitutes check washing.

These checks are occasionally stolen from mailboxes and cleaned with chemicals to erase the ink. Some con artists may even use photocopiers or scanners to create counterfeit checks.

What is Check Washing?

Check washing is a very simple but often effective kind of fraud in which the information on a legal check is removed chemically or electronically, allowing a criminal to recreate the amount and payee’s name.

What is Check Washing?

While there may be some safeguards against such fraud, such as electronic inks and concealed watermarks, the practice is effective since many receivers accept the check at face value owing to the authenticity of the signature.

Due to the fact that simple ways may readily damage a paper check, many scam artists destroy more checks than they can cash.

The washing process is not very difficult, but the outcomes might vary greatly. A valid check is often prepared by applying a protective seal over the signature line. This may be a low-adhesive sticker or tape.

The check is then grasped with tongs and placed in a pan containing acetone, paint thinner, or bleach. Numerous varieties of ballpoint pen ink can be dissolved by the chemical. After the ink on the check has entirely dissolved, it is hung to air dry.

The desired outcome is a signed blank check that may be rewritten to suit the con artist’s purposes.

What is Check Washing?

Driving around neighborhoods and surreptitiously inspecting outgoing mail placed at curbside mailboxes is a common way for getting authentic checks for check washing. Payroll checks and monthly bills are particularly attractive targets.

It has been reported that sophisticated con artists carry portable computers, laminating machines, scanners, and high-end printers in their vehicles in order to manufacture bogus identifications in order to pay batches of forged checks.

The primary difficulty with this form of fraud is writing a blank check. Standard blue ballpoint pen ink is easily removable with acetone, however black ink might be troublesome.

Gel pens with black ink give the best protection against check washing, according to experts, since gel ink is resistant to chemical stripping and includes pigments that infiltrate the check’s fibers. If a washed check seems changed or bleached, it is invalid.

What is Check Washing?

The best protection against check washing schemes?

Therefore, how can small businesses safeguard themselves? The National Check Fraud Center and other experts advise utilizing watermarks and even unique fibers on your checks.

In Palatine, Illinois, where incidents are on the rise, police recommend using pens with special “pigments” that can be found in local office supply stores with labels reading “anti-fraud” and “check security.”

But the best protection? Stop using checks!

What is Check Washing?

The majority of banks provide online payment options. Credit cards are generally accepted, and if a vendor does not take them, you may utilize a service such as Plastiq to facilitate payment.

Digital payment platforms such as PayPal and Venmo (which PayPal owns) are simple to set up. Using checks is inefficient, time-consuming, prone to mistake, and, as evidenced by these studies, carries the possibility of fraud-related loss.

Moreover, it produces a gap in information that makes reporting less timely and cash management more challenging.

You may assume that all of these factors would discourage small firms from issuing checks. However, this is not the case. Many of my clients continue to pay their vendors in the traditional manner, perhaps because the majority of these clients are older.

What is Check Washing?

They are nevertheless not alone. The habit of writing checks is still prevalent among small firms. Even while the number of check payments decreased by 7.2 percent each year from 2015 to 2018, individuals and companies still issued more than 14.5 billion checks, according to a new Federal Reserve research.

Yes, that is a billion! In conclusion, the move away from check-writing is occurring, but it is not occurring quickly enough.

What is Check Washing?

Conclusion

Check washing is the act of wiping information from checks so that they can be redone, typically for criminal objectives such as fraudulently withdrawing funds from the victim’s bank account.

The check writer might take several precautions to limit the likelihood of falling prey to check washing. These include mailing checks in protected mailboxes, using secure ink from a gel, rollerball, or fountain pen, completing all lines on the check, and closely examining bank statements.

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Pat Moriarty
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