CONSUMER FIRST ALERT: Use gel pens to write checks

Door County is seeing the old scam of check washing
The Door County Sheriff's Office has some warnings and tips
Updated: Apr. 30, 2023 at 6:00 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Consumer First Alert about scammers going after checks you write to steal your money -- and a simple thing you can do to protect your checks.

The Door County Sheriff’s Office is warning about several reports of fraud involving personal checks called “check washing” and an important tip about the type of pen you use to write out checks.

Let’s first explain how this scam works: Criminals steal checks from a mailbox and then wash them in chemicals to remove the ink. They then rewrite the check, putting their name on it to cash it and steal your money.

Along with the warning, the Door County Sheriff’s Office advised people to write their checks with gel ink pens. Gel soaks into the paper and it’s much harder to remove than ballpoint pen ink.

Some additional tips to avoid being a victim of check washing, from police and AARP:

  • Take your mail directly to the post office;
  • Don’t put a check in your mailbox for pickup or use the big blue mailboxes after the last pickup time;
  • Pay bills online;
  • Monitor your bank account online every few days to review account balances and see when checks are cashed; don’t wait for your monthly statement.

If you see any suspicious activity around your bank account, contact your bank right away. If it involves your mail, contact your post office, too.

And if you see any suspicious persons or vehicles around neighborhood mailboxes, call police so they can “check” it out.

If you’re reading this and have relatives or friends who write a lot of personal checks, please share this tip with them to swap their ballpoint for a gel pen. Help protect their money.