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Mail Check Fraud & Check Washing

Fraudsters are stealing checks out of the mail. Here's how you can stop that from happening.

In light of increasing reports of stolen mail and check washing in eastern Pennsylvania and Lehigh County, New Tripoli Bank felt it was important to provide as much information as possible regarding this increasingly common type of fraud, so consumers in our community can avoid falling victim to fraudsters. While we maintain vigilance to identify instances of check fraud and check washing, the bank knows an informed community is the best way to prevent these scams from happening in the first place.

What is Mail Check Fraud?

Mail check fraud occurs when a thief steals uncashed checks from either personal or official Postal Service mailboxes (i.e. the blue mailboxes). Thieves will often take these checks to a bank or other financial institution to cash them as if they were the payee, or sometimes they will post the uncashed checks for sale online.

What is Check Washing?

In order to cash a stolen check, the fraudster needs to remove and alter the intended payee's name and dollar amount from the check. The fraudster will chemically "wash" the check to remove the name and dollar amount and then write in their name and a new amount for the check. Some scammers will even use copiers or scanners to print fake copies of a check.

Protecting Yourself

There are several steps you can follow and share to protect yourself and others against mail theft and check washing. The best way to prevent mail theft is to bypass physical mail altogether. Luckily, New Tripoli Bank (and many other financial institutions) offer several electronic options you can use to safely and securely pay your bills.

Use Electronic Bill Pay

Thieves can't steal checks if you're not sending any in the mail! Electronic Bill Pay with New Tripoli Bank's online banking tool is the safest way for our customers to make payments. The service is free and 100% secure, with the added benefit of allowing customers to set automated payments, so you'll never have a late payment again! Even if you're not a New Tripoli Bank customer, you should check with your financial institution to see if they offer electronic bill payment services.

Sign Up for eStatements

Checks aren't the only thing fraudsters are trying to take from mailboxes. Mail theft is often a way for scammers to steal sensitive financial information they can later use to defraud you of your money. By signing up for eStatements, you never have to worry about a thief taking your monthly bank statement out of your mailbox. You should also sign up for electronic billing statements from your utilities and credit card providers, which also contain financial information that fraudsters can use to steal your money or your identity.

Non-Electronic Options

If you feel more comfortable writing physical checks and sending them by mail, there are some safe practices you can follow to prevent mail theft.

Promptly Pick Up or Drop Off Mail

Pick up your mail as close to delivery time as possible and try to deposit outgoing mail before the last collection of the day. This leaves much less time for fraudsters to steal anything before your mail is safely in the hands of a postal worker.

Drop Off Mail at the Post Office

It is ALWAYS safest to deliver mail inside your local Post Office directly into the hands of an employee.

Have Your Mail Held

If you're going on vacation or you can't pick up mail promptly after drop-off, you can contact the local Post Office to have your mail held to be picked up later. You can also have a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor check your mail box regularly for important mail or packages while you are away.

High Security Checks

We offer high-security check options through our partnership with Main Street to safeguard our customers from fraud with added layers of defense. These checks are specially designed to be difficult to counterfeit and make it obvious when a check has been washed.

  1. 3-D hologram foil is fused to the front of the check. The hologram displays a flip-flop effect that is extremely difficult to counterfeit.
  2. The uniquely designed high resolution warning band is difficult to replicate. When copied, the microprint appears as a solid line.
  3. Signature lines feature microprint text that says "ORIGINAL DOCUMENT" which will appear as a solid line when copied.
  4. The text "ORIGINAL DOCUMENT" on the back of the check will not appear when photocopied.
  5. The red lock icon is printed with heat-sensitive ink that will fade with heat. To test the validity of a check, you can rub the ink, hold it between your thumb and finger, or breathe on the image for a reaction.
  6. Padlock security icon indicates that security features are present in the check and are described in the warning box on the back.
  7. The entire document features a VOID pantograph that becomes visible when the check is photocopied.
  8. Check is printed on watermarked paper that is visible when held to the light and cannot be replicated (Included in Business checks only).
  9. Invisible fluorescent fibers are visible  under UV light and cannot be reproduced or replicated.
  10. Check is manufactured from chemically-sensitive paper so that stains or spots become apparent if the check is chemically washed.

If you are interested in High Security Checks, please call New Tripoli Bank or stop into your nearest branch office.

What Should You Do When Your Mail is Stolen?

First and foremost, don't beat yourself up! Anyone can fall victim to fraud, scams, or mail theft and it's important to avoid feeling down about being targeted by criminals. New Tripoli Bank is ready to help you if you've been the victim of mail theft or check washing fraud and ensure your money and identity are kept safe from scammers.

  1. Contact your bank and alert them to the fact that your personal financial information has been stolen.
  2. Create a list of outstanding checks and any regular incoming or outgoing ACH payments. You will need this information when you visit the bank to open a new account.
  3. Visit your bank to close old accounts. New Tripoli Bank customer service representatives are trained to help customers close accounts that have been targeted by fraud and open new ones. You will be provided with informational booklets about fraud and identity theft to help you navigate any issues you may face in the future.
  4. File a police report with your local police department. This is an ongoing issue in our community and your report could help the authorities stop future mail theft.
  5. Email the United States Postal Service to submit a report about stolen mail or contact the U.S. Postal Inspector's Office by calling 1-877-876-2455.