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Rip-Off Alert: 'Check-washing' can clean bank account

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 4/15/2014 6:28 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV — The crime is called check washing: Changing the payees name on a check and stealing thousands of dollars. In this Rip-Off Alert, everyone is a potential victim if your mail is not in a secure location.

Surveillance video shows thieves stealing from business mailboxes.

A savvy business owner had the cameras installed after reports of suspicious break-ins.

“He got a ping on his cellphone, and he was able to zoom in and identify his business mailbox was being broken into,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Rachel Sileski.

The video shows the car and image of Wilfredo Bermudez, the ringleader of a scam that cost victims more than $50,000.

“He was obtaining business checks,” Sileski said. “He would wash and alter them and make them payable to himself and deposit them or cash them at the banks they were drawn on.”

“Check washing” is the process of erasing details from checks to allow them to be rewritten.

“The checks that they obtained could be anywhere from $200 to $8,000,” Sileski said. “There was a large range of checks they negotiated.”

In fact, they were often able to retrieve cash immediately and quickly by going to the bank where the check was drawn.

“So they could use their true identification and the check would be made payable to themselves, and without question they could go in and cash it,” Sileski said.

Postal inspectors say this is yet another lesson on how important it is for all consumers to protect their identity.

“Be very diligent about checking your bank accounts, credit card statements for fraudulent transactions,” Sileski said. “Also, your checking and savings to make sure everything is reconciled and all the checks can be accounted for.”

Postal inspectors also recommend requesting a free yearly credit check.

Bermudez was sentenced to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $50,000 in restitution to his victims.


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