According to the national check fraud, center consumers and banks lose up to $815 million dollars every year to check washing. Check washing refers to the process in which an individual erases the ink from a stolen check. Once the ink is erased, thieves rewrite the checks to themselves along with a new sum under amounts payable. They use common household chemicals such as acetone and bleach to scrub away the writing.
To protect yourself from check washing it is important to order checks equipped with security features. High security checks are available online and through most financial institutions. They cost extra but it is worth paying a little more for the peace of mind. Additionally, it is important to take measures in regards to how you handle your checks.
When shopping for checks it is important to look for manufacturers that offer some or all of the security features listed below:
- Chemical Protection: This refers to the technology that causes stains to appear on the surface of the checks if chemicals are applied.
- Micro Printing: Micro printing is used when creating the signature line of the check. If someone makes a copy of the check, the signature line will break up.
- Back Security Screen: A security screen on the back of a check will state "original document" and is hard to photocopy.
- Watermarks: Watermarks are designs that are visible when you hold your check up to a light source. They are difficult to duplicate.
- Fibers: There are two types of fibers visible and invisible. Both are woven into the paper of the check itself. Visible fibers are noticeable if you tear a corner off the check you will see it fray. Invisible fibers are only detectable under ultraviolet light.
Use Counterfeit Proof Pens:
When you are writing checks to pay your bills only use gel pens. Gel ink is resistant to acetone and other chemicals used for check washing. Ballpoint and marker inks are dye based and dissolve easily so avoid using them. Keep in mind that black ink is the most difficult to erase so when it comes to writing checks always use gel pens with black ink.
Take Preventative Measures:
- Never place outgoing bills in a mailbox. Thieves can reach in and take your checks.
- Shred all checks before throwing them in the trash.
- Review your bank statements on a regular basis. If you fail to report checks fraud within 30 days of the receiving your bank statement, the bank does not have to reimburse you for the theft. (UCC Code 4-4406)
- With computers, scanners and photocopiers at their fingertips, criminals can create fraudulent copies of your checks with ease. Clever thieves often remove checks right out of your mailbox when you are mailing bills. Follow the above guidelines and protect yourself by taking these few extra steps.