Check Washing Scam

There has been frequent media coverage recently about “washed checks.”  But what exactly does that mean and how can you protect yourself from this growing fraud technique?

Check washing is tactic scammers do that involves stealing checks often from mailboxes, then using chemicals to remove any ink, changing the payee’s name and check amount, and cashing them in.  A simple $25 birthday check can be converted into a $2,500 check, leaving anyone who writes and mails checks at risk.

Below are some tips you can do to reduce your chances of falling victim to this scam.

  • Mail checks from the Post Office – Bringing your outgoing mail directly to the Post Office is the most secure strategy for mailing checks.  Stolen checks are most commonly taken from mailboxes outside a home or those on the street, long before they ever make it to the Post Office.


  • Fill the fields on your checks completely– Don’t leave any blank spaces in the Payee and Amount fields. Write using large handwriting and fill any leftover space with X’s so there are no openings for additional writing to be added.


  • Use online bill pay when possible – Many businesses accept online payments through their website instead of requiring a check. You can also use bill pay through Northern’s Online and Mobile Banking platform. You can simply set up one-time or recurring payments, so you never miss a due date.


  • Monitor your bank statements – Review your accounts on a regular basis to verify activity and ensure that all checks clear for the correct amount and to the correct payee. With Northern’s Online and Mobile Banking you can do this by checking your account activity in Online and Mobile banking and by reviewing your monthly eStatements.


  • Enroll in eAlerts –  eAlerts are a great way to keep an extra careful eye on the activity of your accounts. You can receive text messages, emails or push notifications for things such as incoming deposits, outgoing payments, low balance warnings and even login activity. Enroll in eAlerts now!


At Northern, your peace of mind is our top priority. If you have any questions about account security or if you think your Online and Mobile Banking login has been compromised, please do not hesitate to contact us by calling 315.782.0155, connect with us via Video Banking or visit any of our relationship centers.