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Mail Theft and “Check Washing” Still Causing Problems

These days, fewer people are regularly writing checks – but the amount of money we tend to pay via check has gone up significantly. The Federal Reserve reports that “the average value of check payments increased from $1,908 in 2018 to $2,430 in 2021.”

It’s no wonder, then, that fraudsters continue to target mailboxes in hopes of intercepting signed checks and cashing them themselves. In 2022, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the United States Treasury reported 680,000 cases of check fraud in 2022 – up from 350,000 the year before.

You might be wondering: when scammers get their hands on other people’s checks, how do they ultimately cash them? The answer is usually “check washing:” the process of changing the payee names and dollar amounts on checks and fraudulently depositing them. According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, some scammers wash these checks in household chemicals that remove the ink; others use copiers or scanners to print fake copies of the check.

Because check fraud continues to affect our personal and business banking customers, we’ve rounded up a few ways you and your business can keep your checks from being washed, according to the Better Business Bureau:

  • Use electronic payment methods instead. Your check can’t be stolen if you don’t write it in the first place! Whenever possible, use digital payment methods to make or receive payments.
  • If you need to mail a check, use precautions. Drop it off in the lobby slot of your local post office. If you need to use a blue box, drop off your check as close as possible to the last pick-up time of the day.
  • Improve mailbox security. Installing highly visible cameras near your mailbox is a good way to deter fraud at your personal mailbox.
  • Use Positive Pay services through FIBT. We strongly encourage our business banking customers to enroll in Positive Pay. It allows us to compare checks presented for payment to an issued-check file that you provide and notify you if things don’t match up. Learn more about the service here.
  • Always report check fraud. If you suspect your check was stolen, let your financial institution know right away, then file a report with local authorities and postal inspectors.

We encourage you to visit the Education Center at for even more tips on keeping your finances safe and secure.

Business Banking, Personal Banking, Security