Check Fraud Is Alive, Well, And Preventable

Old-fashioned check fraud is coming back into style as banks tailor their anti-fraud efforts to safeguard internet commerce. Check fraud cost banks almost $1 billion in 2005. The LA Times took the time to test the effectiveness of one resurgent scheme, check washing:

In a test at The Times — following directions supplied by a local security expert — the writing in the “Pay to the Order,” “Dollars” and signature areas on a check was dissolved in less than 15 minutes. Printed information — including the bank routing numbers and the name and address of the account holder — remained intact.

Half an hour later, the test check was dry enough for new information to be filled in. It was a bit crumpled, as if it had gotten wet from rain or sat in someone’s pocket. But it looked disturbingly good.

If someone washes and cashes one of your checks, you are not liable for the deducted amount. If the washer is not found, the bank eats the loss.

To prevent check washing, do not write checks using ballpoint pens. Instead, use a pen with secure ink that won’t dissolve, like the $2.00 Uni-ball 207. For the ultimate in check fraud prevention, pay with cash. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Check please, thieves say [LA Times]
(Photo: Daquella Manera)