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Denver woman says thieves 'washed' her check, nearly stole $5,000

USPS blue box
Posted at 10:01 PM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-30 07:29:45-04

DENVER — A woman from Denver's Wash Park neighborhood has a warning for others after she says thieves almost drained $5,000 from her bank account.

The thieves used a tactic you may or may not have heard of it — check washing. It happens when a solvent is used to remove a check's ink and its rewritten.

Kathleen Bailey said she became a victim to the scheme last week.

"I just happened to stop to get a small item at the hardware store and they told me that my card had declined," she said.

Immediately after, Bailey said she went to her Chase Bank branch, where she was told someone tried to cash a check from her account for $5,000.

"They asked me, "Did you write a check for $5,000?" I said, "No, I don't even have $5,000 in my account,"" the woman recalled.

Fortunately, Bailey's bank flagged the withdrawal as suspicious, preventing any loss of fund. Chase Bank provided Bailey with a copy of the check, and her fears were confirmed — someone had "washed" her check and rewrote it.

The check was originally made out to pay a water bill of less than $100.

"I had to change my whole checking account, and that's a lot of difficulty for some people," Bailey said. "It was a mess trying to switch everything over to a new checking account."

Denver woman says thieves 'washed' her check, nearly stole $5,000

Over the past year, banking experts have reported an increase in the age-old check washing technique. Some experts cite the end of pandemic-era stimulus checks as a catalyst for thieves to turn to mail theft, which is easier to accomplish. Others cite the increase of modern, anti-fraud technology, prompting people to turn to check washing.

"When I went to report the incident to Denver police, they said it's a huge problem and every day they get two or three of these complaints and this was just down at district three," Bailey said. "I'm not going to ever use a [United States Postal Service] blue box again, never. And if anything, I'm going to take it into the post office and mail a check or a letter."

USPS has these tips to protect your mail against check washing.

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