Monday, June 24, 2024

Huntsville business falls victim to check washing scam, loses over $1 million

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) -Check-washing scams are on the rise nationwide and has cost one Huntsville business over $1 million.

Check washing is when scammers steal a check, usually through the postal service, and use household chemicals to remove the existing ink and replace it with their own. They will then change the name on the check and cash it as their own.

The United States Postal Service has reported that they recover more than $1 billion every year in counterfeit checks and money orders each year.

One Huntsville business told WAFF 48 News that it has recently been a victim of this growing scam. A business representative said they have lost over $1.5 million due to check washing.

The business asked to remain anonymous because they have lost so much money and believe they are being targeted by scammers.

The representative tells WAFF 48 that they will write a check, anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, mail it and the money will be taken out of their account. However, the company says they are trying to pay tells them they never received the payment.

Karen Reeves with the Better Business Bureau said check washing is a growing problem, but there are a few things consumers and businesses can do to protect their money.

Reeves said to make sure you are using a gel pen to write your checks, as the ink is resistant to most chemicals. Also, take advantage of electronic payment methods.

If you have to write a check, Reeves warns to take extra precautions getting it to its destination.

“If you absolutely have to use a drop box, always check and see what time are they picking up that last delivery of the day,” Reeves said. “Don’t put the check in there if you missed that last delivery and they have a chance of staying in that box overnight.

“If at all possible, go inside the post office and put it inside the mail slot,” Reeves said. “Another option would be for the business to consider having a post office box instead of a physical mailbox.”

The Better Business Bureau is now offering a scam tracker tool kit as a result of rising scams in our area. Here, you can report a scam and find resources to help remedy the situation.

Reeves said if you’ve fallen victim to check washing, there are a few things you need to do as soon as you realize the money has been taken.

“Contact the bank immediately so that you can prevent further damage from this,” Reeves said. “If it was a postal situation, contact the post office and file a report with the postal inspector.

“You may also need to file a police report depending on what the particular situation is.”

For more information on check washing, click here.

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