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Check Fraud
Old 01-06-2019, 01:58 PM   #1
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Check Fraud

Alan's post on his debit card fraud made me want to post recent check fraud experience. I wrote a $4K+ check to pay my real estate taxes and mailed it in a US PO. Checking my account, which I do regularly, I see the check has someones name not the county where I live. I immediately contacted the bank. Unlike credit cards check fraud is not automatically covered by a bank. They said they will investigate and let me know. The process took a couple weeks. I contacted USPS online, got a case # but advised in standard text reply that they collect statistics and decide what they will investigate. Contacted the county (who knows where my payment got intercepted, thought they might be interested) they could not care less only advised that if I had a late payment and a police case I would not. be charged late fees. I contacted the county sheriff and they took a formal report. Provided copies of my original check and printouts from the bank online. The sheriff says they will contact the bank , sometimes the bank welcomes them other times not.
At the bank, closed checking account, opened a new one, had to change a lot of standing payments, my retirement 401k deposit change required notarization. PITA. Talking to the bank I mentioned that I grew up in a sh!t neighborhood in Chicago and didn't see this happen. Bank said it's more common now as the technology to wash checks is so easy.
After two weeks and a round of notarized certifications to the bank they absorbed the loss. So PITA for me and , I guess, for the bank. They have insurance for these events. I wanted to know more and have the sheriff pursue the case but once I was made whole by the bank I get no more information from the bank. I would think that the bank has the account the check was deposited into and probably CCTV footage, plenty to pass on to the sheriff.

I now pay the RE taxes electronically. And I thought my friend was paranoid that he never mails checks except directly in the PO building, now I do that. I live in a good neighborhood and he in an even better one. I hate to see such unusual event alter my life practices but it does happen.
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Old 01-06-2019, 02:17 PM   #2
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After two weeks and a round of notarized certifications to the bank they absorbed the loss. So PITA for me and , I guess, for the bank. They have insurance for these events. I wanted to know more and have the sheriff pursue the case but once I was made whole by the bank I get no more information from the bank. I would think that the bank has the account the check was deposited into and probably CCTV footage, plenty to pass on to the sheriff.
Bolding is mine.

When the bank absorbed the loss and you were made whole, your legal status changed from "victim" to "witness". That's why any prosecution decisions are now up to the bank. Probably their first consideration is "will prosecution get our money back?". If the answer is "no" then they will probably not expend the money to pay someone to put together a case that the sheriff's department and the prosecution can work with, and then spend how much time in court.

Understanding that this is a business decision and not a moral one makes it easier to take.
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Old 01-06-2019, 02:38 PM   #3
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Here's where mailing at the post office outside boxes is dangerous...


I've noticed that early in the morning, the outside boxes are so full you can feel and see the mail in the full box! Someone could come up and take out a handfull or two of mail no problem. And this may be the important stuff, since we've now all been trained to not leave it in the home box.


I first noticed this because I literally could not fit my mail in the box it was so full. Subsequent trips were similar, I could see the last mail "peaking up" in the slot accessed from the car. I even jammed it down a few times!


Since then, I go inside and mail it there. The outside boxes are not secure, in my opinion.
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Old 01-06-2019, 02:49 PM   #4
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Thanks for bringing another type of fraud. Very interesting case.
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Old 01-06-2019, 02:59 PM   #5
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.... Talking to the bank I mentioned that I grew up in a sh!t neighborhood in Chicago and didn't see this happen. Bank said it's more common now as the technology to wash checks is so easy.
....
It doesn't even take much tech to wash a check. I tried it back in 2000 to see how easy it was and if I should be concerned about it.
Turns out it was easy as getting wet in the rain

I still write checks, but whenever I can I pay online as I feel it's more secure.
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Old 01-06-2019, 03:38 PM   #6
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This reminded of my 6-figure check loss when the bank teller screwed up. So even walking into the bank and depositing a check in person to a real live human being bank employee is no guarantee.
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Old 01-06-2019, 03:51 PM   #7
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For those rare places which still require a check, my bank will print and send them for free. It's all done on-line just like "regular" electronic payments. It's probably more secure, but I do it mostly for the convenience. I can even set up recurring payments or schedule payments in the future.

I expect the few packs of checks I have left will last the rest of my life.
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Old 01-06-2019, 04:02 PM   #8
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For those rare places which still require a check, my bank will print and send them for free. It's all done on-line just like "regular" electronic payments. It's probably more secure, but I do it mostly for the convenience. I can even set up recurring payments or schedule payments in the future.

I expect the few packs of checks I have left will last the rest of my life.
I'm similar to you and anything that can't be paid online or automatically is paid through my banks online payment service. But just FYI most of those payments are not by check, most are electronic payments made and bundled as a group of payments. The check is an image for your reference purpose and convenience. Checks are usually only sent to very low volume type of payee/vendors. So def more secure than if a check was sent.
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Old 01-06-2019, 04:05 PM   #9
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The insecurity of outside boxes was on my local news about a year or so ago. Elderly lady had her check stolen and "washed' in this way. The box was not full but the person who did it, who was eventually caught, used a sharpened stick to grab some mail from the pile in the partially filled box. This was in an exurban county, and done at night, so not much chance of witnesses. Ever since seeing that story,I only put mail inside the PO, its open all hours so not too inconvenient.


And, I also lost, temporarily, a five figure deposit, about twenty years ago, at the savings bank, due to teller error. the PITA was it was for a down payment on the house I live in now, so there was a time issue in getting it resolved prior to closing. Closed those accounts after that and only use the CU for checking ever since.
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Old 01-06-2019, 04:06 PM   #10
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I had an auto bill-pay check go awry a few years ago. I found out when my HOA said I was delinquent and I had a cashed check. They and the bank (WF) were both unhelpful and unfriendly about the whole thing, and the poor response by WF led me to close my account. They did refund the money to my account - as required by state laws, but they dragged out the process unnecessarily and in every one of our contacts they hinted or implied it might be my liability or even that I might be acting unlawfully. My experience with bank fraud is one must know the law and be up to date with consumer protections.
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Old 01-06-2019, 04:11 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by mamadogmamacat View Post
The insecurity of outside boxes was on my local news about a year or so ago. Elderly lady had her check stolen and "washed' in this way. The box was not full but the person who did it, who was eventually caught, used a sharpened stick to grab some mail from the pile in the partially filled box. This was in an exurban county, and done at night, so not much chance of witnesses. Ever since seeing that story,I only put mail inside the PO, its open all hours so not too inconvenient..
Woah! Never thought of that.


The slots added for car drops are not secure. The old walkup "swing paddle" door is a bit better, but the car side open slot just stinks.
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Old 01-06-2019, 05:05 PM   #12
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Wow. Such a pain to change the checking account numbers. It seems no information is safe today that's on paper (i.e. check) or plastic (credit card). Best bet seems to pay bills electronically and save the receipts somewhere online. Welcome to tech age !
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Old 01-06-2019, 05:20 PM   #13
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I don’t like to mail payments locally and will drive to the post office to do it. Most of my transactions are electronic.
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Old 01-06-2019, 07:27 PM   #14
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My apartment building has a locked mailbox for outgoing mail inside the building. It is built into the wall so there is no pull-down door. And the box doesn't fill up, of course. Even then, I have mailed out only 6 checks in all of 2018. A few of them I mailed from the local post office such as my tax returns.
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Old 01-06-2019, 08:18 PM   #15
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There has been a continuing serious rash of mailbox thefts in my town and surrounding towns here in Bergen County, NJ. And these thefts are from the boxes right in front of the Post Offices. I pay my Water bill and Property taxes by check, but I drop them off at my Municipal Building - it gives me a good 3 mile round trip run so I combine exercise with avoiding one of these thefts.

I also have 2 Long Term care bills that are paid by check, and I make sure to mail them inside the Post Office. All other bills are paid electronically. Until these thefts first started, I had never heard of "bleaching" or "washing" of checks. Apparently this is very easy to do.

I wonder if, besides electronic payments this will be the death knell for paper checks.
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Old 01-06-2019, 11:13 PM   #16
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I donít like to mail payments locally and will drive to the post office to do it. Most of my transactions are electronic.
as are ours but when i have to mail a check i give it to our local mail carrier when she delivers to our home.
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Old 01-06-2019, 11:51 PM   #17
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Since then, I go inside and mail it there. The outside boxes are not secure, in my opinion.
+1

One day I drove to the post office to use the outside drive up box. The car ahead of me stuck a bunch of letters in the box and drove off. By the time I pulled up, just a few seconds later. a number of letters fell back out. The box was overflowing, I guess the person was in a hurry.

I picked the letters from the ground and brought them (and my mail) inside, gave it to the clerk, and pointed out the problem. They said they would get to it.

Ever since then, I always try to drop off letters inside the post office.
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Old 01-07-2019, 04:59 AM   #18
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I have still got my UK bank checkbook from decades ago. The last paper check I write here was in 2016.

On moving to England in 2017 our son opened his first UK bank account and they donít even issue a checkbook these days. He says that if he ever comes across someone who canít accept a direct bank to bank payment that they will have to wait until he goes to the ban and asks for some checks. Even big purchases like buying a car the seller will provide their bank detail and you deposit the money into it. Bank to bank transfers complete with minutes at most.
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Old 01-07-2019, 06:07 AM   #19
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I picked the letters from the ground and brought them (and my mail) inside, gave it to the clerk, and pointed out the problem. They said they would get to it.
Yep. I thought it was so unusual, I went inside and told the clerk too. Wow, must have been a heavy mail night, I thought.

Next week, same thing. Week after, same thing.*

I stopped telling the clerk. It clearly is a chronic thing.

* - I was using US Mail weekly for a while while serving a volunteer position for a non-profit.
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Old 01-07-2019, 06:28 AM   #20
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By the time I pulled up, just a few seconds later. a number of letters fell back out. The box was overflowing
That situation is very common around here in the weeks before Christmas, as people stuff huge bunches of greeting cards in the box. Kind of ridiculous IMHO, but they have a set schedule for emptying the box and won't add extras because they would have to forfeit their bureaucrat cards.
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