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Clear Lake Bank & Trust


Checking Washing Scams

What is check-washing?

In a check-washing scam, the fraudster steals checks from the mail, changes the payee name and/or the dollar amount, then deposits them into their own account(s).

The United States Postal Inspection Service recovers more than $1 BILLION in fraudulent checks & money orders each year. If you mailed a check that was paid, but the recipient never received it, criminals may have stolen it.

Fraudsters are targeting paper checks sent through the mail. Once they have a check that you mailed, they use chemicals to “wash” the check allowing them to change the amount or make themselves the payee. Then, they deposit or cash your check and steal your money.

Postal Inspectors across the country work hard to protect your mail. Help Postal Inspectors keep the mail safe by following these tips.

Check washing is a particularly dangerous scam since victims may not learn of its occurrence for weeks, or even months. They may only discover they've been scammed when they review their monthly checking account statement and discover the check amount and/or payee has been altered. Or, it may only happen when the intended recipient reaches out to let the check-writer know they still haven’t to receive the check. The scam’s discovery is more likely to be delayed when the scammers have not modified any information on the check and have simply stolen and deposited a check made out to “cash.”

How to Protect Your Mail

  • Get your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.
  • If you’re heading out of town, ask the post office to hold your mail until you return.
  • Sign up for informed delivery at It sends you daily email notifications of incoming mail and packages.
  • Contact the sender if you don’t receive mail that you’re expecting.
  • Consider buying security envelopes to conceal the contents of your mail.
  • Use the letter slots inside your Post Office to send mail.

How to Protect Your Checks

  • Use pens with indelible black ink so it is more difficult for a criminal to wash your checks.
  • Don’t leave blank spaces in the payee or amount lines.
  • Don’t write personal details, such as your Social Security number, credit card information, driver's license number or phone number on checks.
  • Use mobile or online banking to access copies of your checks and ensure they are not altered. While logged in, review your bank activity and statements for errors.
  • If your bank provides an image of a paid check, review the back of the check to ensure the indorsement information is correct and matches the intended payee, since criminals will sometimes deposit your check unaltered.
  • Consider using e-check, ACH automatic payments and other electronic and/or mobile payments.
  • Follow up with payees to make sure that they received your check.

What to do if You’re a Victim

File a report immediately with:

  • Your bank and request copies of all fraudulent checks
  • Your local police department
  • The United States Postal Inspection Service at or call 1-877-876-2455