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October 01, 2013 - CHECK WASHING

Check washing is defined as the alteration of the handwritten parts of your check.

If you’re in the habit of placing your bills in an unsecured mailbox, your mail can be stolen. Here’s what the mail thieves can do:  A common solvent called acetone, also known as nail polish remover, can erase ink ball point pen markings on specific areas of your check after they cover the portions of the check they don’t want erased, such as your signature. Once they erase what they want, they can alter the amount of money that is withdrawn from YOUR BANK ACCOUNT and/or the NAME OF THE PAYEE, so that the criminal gets paid a sum of money that you yourself authorized. There’s no forgery, because they didn’t erase your signature with the acetone. To prevent check washing:
1..Minimize your risk by taking all your outgoing mail to the Post Office or using a secure Post Office box.
2..Use a BLACK GEL INK PEN on ALL CHECKS so that the ink permeates the fibers of the check. Gel ink is completely unaffected by acetone.
3..Don’t leave any blank spaces or lines on your check.
4..Review your financial statements carefully each month, and make sure that all your accounts are balanced and accurate.
Checks today have additional security measures that are available. For example, if someone tries to alter a check through chemical means, the word VOID appears all over the check. Watermarks on the check can protect against photocopying and scanners. Invisible fibers are embedded in some checks that show up under special lighting conditions. If you are in the process of ordering new checks, ask for these security features to be a part of your checks.
With these simple steps, we can avoid becoming the victim of a check washer!
From the desk of Officer Jane Constant
Senior Relations Division
Nashua Police Department

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