KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) – It happens every day. Someone drops a check into a mailbox and trusts that it will reach its destination. Many of us rely on the post office for sending important documents and payments. Most of the time, the documents and payments are safely delivered. But, not always.
A Kansas City man recently used one of those secured blue boxes to send a large check, but the intended recipient never got it. He later found out the check was washed, then cashed. “Check washing” has been around about as long as people have used checks. Thieves erase the ink on checks and then reuse them by making them out to themselves. It’s not a small-time theft. The National Check Fraud Center estimates check washing adds up to about $815 million ever year in the U.S. — and it’s growing.
“It’s super aggravating,” said Jason Solomon, the KC victim of check washing. “Sad. Super stressful.”
Solomon wrote a check to a contractor. He thought he was doing everything to keep his check safe. He drove it to the post office and put it in the secured blue box just outside. The check cleared, but the person he was trying to pay never received it. When Solomon looked into it, he found out the check had been altered.
“I can see immediately that it’s been falsified,” said Solomon. “The payee and the date had been altered and changed by someone, not who I made the check out to.”
It’s unclear exactly how it happened. The only thing known for sure is that the check was stolen, then washed.
“I freaked out,” said Solomon. “I think anyone would. You feel completely violated and you feel like, ‘What am I going to do? There’s no way this could be happening to me.’”
Jason contacted his bank, filed a police report and made an official complaint to the post office. He even went directly to that particular post office to report what happened and he found out that it wasn’t happening only to him.
“There was a lady behind me that was also there to complain about the same thing,” Solomon said. “As she as she heard my story, she started to bring up, ‘That’s exactly what I’m here for as well.’”
Someone of Facebook posted a warning about the same location.
We reached out to the post office inspector general for information. While we couldn’t get details about that particular post office or the region, we were told more than 1,000 cases like this were officially reported last year. That led to more than 1,200 convictions. The post office points out they deliver some 130 billion pieces of mail each year and said it remains one of the most secure ways of transmitting personal information.
They do advise you only place mail in the blue boxes if you see there will be a pickup that day. Don’t leave it to sit in the box overnight. And, they said it’s even better if you can walk your mail inside.
- Retrieve your mail frequently. Don’t leave it the mailbox overnight.
- If you’re going away, ask the post office to hold your mail for up to 30 days.
- Use a black gel pen to write checks. Gel pens make it more difficult, but not impossible, to wash.
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