Six Tips to Avoid Mail-Related Check Fraud

posted by Mike Burke on Monday, April 17, 2023 in SHAZAM Blog

Recently, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an alert to financial institutions about a nationwide surge in check fraud schemes targeting the U.S. mail. In fact, last year, reports of mail-related check fraud nearly doubled the number of filings in 2021.  

To carry out their crimes, fraudsters typically target United States Postal Service (USPS) blue collection boxes, unsecured residential mailboxes, and privately owned cluster mailboxes at apartment complexes, planned communities and commercial businesses. They then use mail theft techniques including forced entry, fishing devices and stolen USPS master keys.  

After criminals get their hands on stolen checks, they alter or “wash” the checks, which is known as check washing. Through this process, fraudsters often forge new dollar amounts, reproduce and sell checks on the dark web or create counterfeit checks using routing and account information from the original.  

To cash in on their crimes, these brazen lawbreakers cash or deposit checks at financial institutions, ATMs or by remote deposit. 

Despite the increase in mail-related check fraud, there are tips to help you and your accountholders lower the risk.   

Check Fraud Considerations  

  1. Use a black ink gel pen when filling out checks. Gel pens penetrate the check paper, making it harder to wash.
  2. Use online bill pay whenever possible.
  3. Never leave a check in outgoing mail in an unlocked mailbox (for example, a mailbox next to front door or at the end of the driveway). 
  4. If you use a USPS collection box to mail outgoing checks, make sure the pickup time is within the next few hours. Collection times are posted on the box. 
  5. Keep in mind that the most secure way to mail a check is to take it directly to the post office. 
  6. Frequently monitor bank statements for irregularities. 

If you or an accountholder becomes a victim of check fraud, report it to the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). For more tips about how to protect against mail theft, read these tips from USPIS.  



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