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Check Washing Money Fraud- chemical that removes ink from checks

Updated on February 8, 2012

What is check washing?

Check washing is an old school style of money fraud. Anyone who saw the movie "Catch Me if you Can" saw what check washing was. The question is, does check washing happen today? Absolutely! Consumers make it easy for thieves to steal checks and then wash them. What they do is place a piece of tape over your signature then using a common household chemical that removes ink, they wash the check in the solution until all that is left is your signature protected under tape. After removing the tape, the thief now has a signed blank check to fill out with a new amount made payable to the thief (who is usually using a stolen identity).

How do I help theives raid my bank account?

The first thing is making your checks accessible. Thieves roam around neighborhoods looking for those little red flags that are "up". It is much like an unintended invitation to criminals to look inside your box and take your outgoing mail. This is especially prevalent at the first of the month when bills are often due.

Using checks bought from the back of a magazine

Another way we help thieves is by purchasing unsecured checks. When you buy checks from the back of magazines for $6 a box is not a very good idea. They are printed on simple paper. Checks purchased from your bank may cost more, but there are reasons. Checks bought from banks have security measures built in (secret and obvious) much like the kind of paper money is printed on. Bank checks are more secure.

How to prevent check fraud

The two things you can do if you still need to use checks is to use a gel based permanent ink pen to fill out your checks. the other thing is to never put checks in the outgoing mail box. Instead, take them directly to the Post Office.

Money fraud from stealing and then washing checks is still a crime that thieves rely on to make their living off of your hard earned income.


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    • bayareagreatthing profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Bay Area California

      P-dog- yes that was an especially effective scam that the author used when he was a young criminal(prior to getting caught and working for the FBI).

      Yaturi and Gus - that is excellent advice

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      In addition, we must dispose old or cancelled checks off properly. I would also suggest that we should be careful when asked to sign in, when visiting an office or a public building.Just use your initials. Never use the same signature you use with your checks. You may never know who is trailing you.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      8 years ago from USA

      HI BAGT - Good article and sensible advice witin it. I had been told many moons ago to never use ordinary "fountain pen" type ink to write checks, but to use oil-base ballpoint pen inks that will not be able to be washed out.

      Gus :-)))

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      Cheques still have to be cleared though BAGT! In my country this takes 2-3 biz days and cash cheques require ID which admittedly could be faked. Did you ever here of the scam of writing cheques on the West Coast and withdrawing the money on the East Coast scam? The cheques clear earlier on the East coast due to the time difference. So money in accounts with cheques for fictitious amounts supposedly "cleared" were being accessed. I think this scam was before electronic processing.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Everything old is new again. Thanks for the reminder and explanation of how check washing works. Old tricks of a trade are not ever gone just under utilizied for even more clever methods. Or so we think!

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Very good information, thank you. Paying on line is also a risk, so we have to be more altert than ever since stealing identity semms to be a profitable business for the ones who would rather not work for their money


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