Best Practices to Protect Yourself from Check Washing Scams

What is check washing, and how is it used?

Criminals steal paper checks sent through the mail, for example, by fishing them from USPS mailboxes or taking them out of your mailbox. Once they have a check you wrote and mailed, for example, to a charity, they use chemicals to “wash” the check to change the amount or make themselves the payee. They then deposit your check and steal money from your account. If you have mailed a check that was paid, but the recipient never received it, you may be a check washing victim.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Don’t leave blank spaces in the payee or amount lines of checks you write. 
  • People’s Credit Union provides an image of a cashed check. You should review the back of the check and ensure the endorsement information is correct and matches the intended payee.
  • Use online banking to review copies of your checks to ensure they were not altered.
  • Set up “Alerts” in your online banking, such as “Cleared Checks.” Click here for more “Alerts” you should set up in online banking. (Page 5)
  • Consider making payments using our online banking Bill Pay, ACH automatic payments, and other electronic and mobile payments.
  • Use gel pens with indelible black ink so it is more challenging to wash your checks.
  • Follow up with people and businesses to ensure they received your check.
  • Regularly review your bank activity and statements for errors.

The United States Postal Inspection Services also recommends that you:

  • Drop off mail in blue collection boxes before the last scheduled pick-up time or directly at your local Post Office.
  • Regularly check your mail. Do not leave your mail in your mailbox overnight.
  • If you’re heading out of town, have the Post Office hold your mail or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.

What to do if you’re a victim?

File a report immediately with the following:

  • The United States Postal Inspection Service at or call 1-877-876-2455
  • Your local police department 
  • Call our Member Service Center 800.498.8930

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