In a world of Venmo, Paypal, Apple Pay and Cash App, you may find it hard to believe that there are still people who use paper checks. There are and people tossing them in a mailbox are putting themselves at risk for fraud. 

The reasons you may prefer to send a paper check vary depending on the sender. Some senders may be older and feel more comfortable with writing a traditional check than they do with technology. Others may feel just fine with technology but have limited access to the internet, especially in rural parts of Idaho. Checks are also common gifts for occasions like birthdays, weddings and graduations. Mailing one seems easy if you can’t attend in person. 

Signing A Check
Ingram Publishing

That’s something that criminals are keenly aware of and the United States Postal Service says they’ve seen a disturbing increase in the number of mailboxes and mail carriers targeted by criminals who are trying to get their hands on checks to commit check fraud. There were over 300 incidents of postal carriers being robbed on duty during the first half of the 2023 fiscal year. An additional 35,000 blue collection boxes were targeted during the same time frame. 

How Are Thieves Getting Money From Stolen Checks?

The United States Postal Inspection Service explains that one way criminals are getting to your funds is by doing something called “check washing.” That’s when they use chemicals to erase the ink your name was written with and change the payee to another person or entity. They may change the amount, as well. A $100 check you sent to your niece for their high school graduation could easily become a $1,000 check paid out to someone you don’t know. 

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The Better Business Bureau says that the pen you write checks with could make a difference. They suggest using a pen with long-lasting black “gel ink.” You know, the type of ink that’s darn near impossible to get out of your clothes or carpet. 

Idaho Isn’t Safe from Check Fraud

Back in 2019, three Canyon County residents were sentenced for their role in a check forgery scheme that resulted in their victims losing a collective $32,000. As part of their plea deal, the victims admitted that they had stolen checks from mailboxes, changed themselves to the payee and increased the amount of the check. 

A Male Hand Filling Out The Amount On A Cheque

Late last year, a woman in Kootenai County said that a $638.17 check made out to her dead parents was stolen from her mail. They tracked that back to a postal worker who stole the check and admitted to depositing the check and withdrawing some of the funds associated with it. 

What To Do If You Absolutely Have to Mail a Check

First of all, use the type of pen suggested above to write the check in the first place. The United States Postal Service hasn’t issued an official statement but does suggest bringing envelopes containing checks into a secure post office, rather than dropping them in a blue box or leaving it in your own mailbox.

The Better Business agrees and suggests that if that’s not possible, you make sure you don’t drop a check in one of the blue boxes AFTER the final pick-up of the day.

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