For years, we have been trying to tell our older relatives that it is not safe to send cash through the mail.  Still, at least a few times a year, my dear mother will send a $20 bill to one of my daughters as a birthday or Christmas gift.  For some reason, she believes that folding it up and putting it inside a folded piece of paper (inside the envelope) will prevent someone from taking it.

Clearly, this is not the case.  How do I know?  Because there have been several times in the last few years when the letter containing cash failed to make it from Northern Maine to Central Maine.

Even though it is not safe to send cash through the mail, you can still send checks through the mail, right?  Apparently, it is not!

Check Theft

According to a March 2023 article from the New York Times, check fraud is on the rise.  Basically, the amount of checks stolen in the last few years has doubled.  The article explains that there were 350,000 cases in 2021 and 680,000 cases in 2022.

But checks are made out to a specific person or entity and for a specific amount.  So how are the crooks doing it?

Check Washing

The process of check washing involves the thief stealing a check from a mailbox (often using keys stolen from a postal worker) and using some sort of solvent (like nail polish remover) to literally wash the intended recipient's name off the check.  The thief then writes a different name on the check, and can even increase the amount of the check.  They then cash the check and make off with the money.

Keep an Eye on Our Older Loved Ones

Because of the fact this scam involves old-school paper checks (instead of payments made through an online portal), it should not be a surprise that our older loved ones are far more likely to fall victim to check theft.

It may be time for you to take over paying mom or grandmother's bills.  Just a suggestion.

Clearly, don't freak out about this, but it is something to keep in mind if you are one of the few people still paying your bills with a check.

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