KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) – It happens every day. Someone deposits a check in a mailbox and hopes it reaches its destination. Many of us rely on the post office to send important documents and payments. Most of the time, documents and payments are delivered securely. But not always.
A Kansas City man recently used one of these secure blue boxes to send a large check, but the intended recipient never received it. He later discovered that the check had been washed and then cashed. Check washing has been around for as long as people have been using checks. Thieves erase the ink from checks and then reuse them by making them for themselves. This is no small theft. The National Check Fraud Center estimates that check washing is worth about $815 million a year in the United States — and it’s growing.
“It’s super aggravating,” said Jason Solomon, the victim of KC’s check washing. “Sad. Hyper stressful.
Solomon wrote a check to a contractor. He thought he was doing everything to keep his check safe. He drove it to the post office and put it in the secure blue box just outside. The check cleared, but the person he was trying to pay never received it. When Solomon looked into the matter, he discovered that the check had been altered.
“I can see immediately that it was tampered with,” Solomon said. “The payee and date were altered and changed by someone, not who I wrote the check to.”
We don’t know exactly how it happened. The only thing known for certain is that the check was stolen and then washed.
“I freaked out,” Solomon said. “I think anyone would. You feel completely violated and you’re like, ‘What am I going to do? There’s no way this can happen to me.
Jason contacted his bank, filed a police report, and filed a formal complaint with the post office. He even went straight to that post office to report what had happened and he found out that it wasn’t just happening to him.
“There was a lady behind me who was also there complaining about the same thing,” Solomon said. “Hearing my story, she started to say, ‘That’s exactly why I’m here too. “”
Someone from Facebook posted a warning about the same place.
We contacted the Postal Inspector General for information. Although we were unable to obtain details about this particular post office or the region, we were told that more than 1,000 cases like this were officially reported last year. This led to over 1,200 convictions. The Post Office points out that it delivers some 130 billion pieces of mail each year and said it remains one of the most secure ways to transmit personal information.
They advise you to only put mail in the blue boxes if you see there will be a pickup that day. Do not let it sit in the box overnight. And, they said it was even better if you could walk your mail inside.
- Check your mail frequently. Don’t leave it in the mailbox overnight.
- If you are leaving, ask the post office to hold your mail for up to 30 days.
- Use a black gel pen to write checks. Gel pens make washing more difficult, but not impossible.
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