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West Hartford Police Issue Warning About Check Washing Scam

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West Hartford Police have issued a new warning to residents about checks being stolen from the mail and altered to read a different amount.

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West Hartford Police Department warns residents about “check washing” scams and offers the following information on how to protect yourself and how to report an incident if you become a victim.

What is “check washing”?

Check washing scams have been around for decades and involve changing the payee names and often the dollar amounts on checks and fraudulently depositing them. Usually these checks are stolen from mailboxes and washed in chemicals to remove the ink. Some scammers will even use copiers or scanners to print fake copies of a check.

How can you protect yourself?

  1. Drop off mail before final pickups. The best time to put out-going mail into the U.S. Postal Service’s blue collection boxes, it says, is before the last pickup of the day. You can find pickup times and days listed online, at the post office, or on the physical collection box. Want more safety? Drop out-going mail off directly at a post office.
  2. Retrieve your mail frequently and promptly. Make sure you never leave your mail in your mailbox overnight.
  3. When you write and send a check, you should monitor your bank account to see when funds are withdrawn.
  4. When writing a check, use a gel pen. Experts say gel pens with black ink provide the best protection against check washing, because gel ink resists chemical stripping. It also contains pigments that permeate the fibers of the check itself.
  5. Hold mail at your local post office, especially if you are going on vacation.
  6. Use online or mobile banking.
  7. Avoid mailing from home. Don’t put bills, particularly those paid by check, in a residential mailbox. The red flag sticking up from a mailbox “is like an invitation to a thief.”

How do you report an incident?

Call your local police department, 860-523-5203, and notify the United States Postal Inspection Service (uspis.gov).

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