Protecting yourself from check-washing scams …

Right now, there are stories going around about thieves stealing checks from the mail, then changing the amounts and cashing the checks for the new, higher amounts. It’s called check-washing.

If you’re concerned about protecting yourself from check-washing, there are a few easy steps you can take that will make it much more difficult for a thief to get a check of yours to wash.

According to the United States Postal Inspection Services, one sign of a possibly stolen check is if you sent a check to someone who said it never arrived. If that happens to you, they say you should speak to your bank right away about the check and you probably should put a stop-payment on it.

The United States Postal Inspection Services recommends mailing checks before the last pickup of the day – so your mail is not left in a street-side blue mailbox overnight. Dropping off outgoing mail inside the Post Office is also recommended. One other idea: The Post Office suggests it’s best to not leave outgoing mail in your home mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up, to prevent someone else from seeing your mail there and taking it.

A few other things you can do to help protect yourself from check-washing:

> To cut down on the number of checks you’re mailing, consider paying more of your bills online.

> If you are writing a check, use a gel ink pen (sometimes called a “fraud prevention” pen). They are available at office supply stores and online.

> Fill out every section of a check you’re writing and use large numbers to fill the space, making it more difficult for a thief to just add a few extra digits.

> Keep track of the checks you write so you can go back and confirm if there’s a discrepancy.

> Monitor your bank account/s and report any discrepancies immediately. (At most banks there are time limits for reporting check fraud – often about 30 days.)

If you have any questions or concerns about check-washing, come see us or call 781-828-8811 x5. You may also want to speak to the people at the Canton Post Office.

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