When you need to exchange money with a friend, how do you do it? Mailing checks in New York State might not be the safest way to do business anymore.

Let's be real- apps like Venmo, Paypal and Cash App are fairly mainstream now. Many traditional banks in the United States use Zelle. Even with these options at our fingertips, there are still people who chose to use paper checks. If you’re placing a check in the mail, you may be putting yourself at risk for fraud. This may not be a new concept either, except this time experts are warning how things are getting rough. Here in New York, and honestly nationwide, the scams are growing.

In May 2023, the United States Postal Service and United States Postal Inspection Service teamed up for an initiative called “Project Safe Delivery” after noticing a troubling increase in the number of mailboxes being targeted by thieves, and the number of their letter carriers being robbed on their routes. The Associated Press reported that the number of carriers robbed while on duty rose more than 30% to 643 in 2023.

How Are Thieves Getting Money from Stolen Checks?

There’s a whole page on the United States Postal Inspection Service’s website dedicated to a scam called “check washing.” Here's how that works:

They track the original scam back to a group of meth addicts who realized that if you soaked a check in a certain chemical, handwritten ink would come right off. The 10 men that were part of the crime ring also got their hands on blank temporary driver’s licenses which they used to make fake IDs. They filled out those washed checks and used the fake identities to steal thousands of dollars from the people who originally mailed the checks.

This concept was showcased on the big screen in "Catch Me If You Can"

The Better Business Bureau says that the pen you write checks with could make a difference. They suggest using a pen with long-lasting black “gel ink.” You know, the type of ink that’s darn near impossible to get out of your clothes or carpet.

What To Do If You Absolutely Have to Mail a Check

First of all, use the type of pen suggested above to write the check in the first place. The United States Postal Service hasn’t issued an official statement but does suggest bringing envelopes containing checks into a secure post office, rather than dropping them in a blue box or leaving it in your own mailbox. The Better Business agrees and suggests that if that’s not possible, you make sure you don’t drop a check in one of the blue boxes AFTER the final pick-up of the day.

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