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Rip-Off Alert: Thieves steal mail to aid check-washing scam

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 5/03/2014 2:35 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV — “Check washing,” the process of erasing details from checks to allow them to be rewritten, continues to attract victims.

Julie DiMaggio had written a check to her copy service for her law office. When she later checked her bank statement, she realized something was wrong.

“The check cashed for $2,100,” DiMaggio said. “And I had actually written it for $125.”

When she called the copy center to complain, she realized the company was also a victim.

“They told me that they had their mailbox broken into because it was outside and over a holiday weekend,” DiMaggio said. “It went unchecked for several days. And when they came in, someone had taken all of their mail.”

It turns out DiMaggio was not alone; thieves had stolen the mail of several businesses.

“They had washed my check and put in their own information,” DiMaggio said.

“The criminals took these checks and they erased the payee on the check,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Bianca Alvarez. “Sometimes they erase the amounts on the checks as well.”

Postal inspectors say the criminals then go to a bank and cash the check.

“The checks were cashed because they looked legitimate,” Alvarez said. “They were real checks; they were just altered. And the criminals were able to take the money from the checks that they cashed.”

Postal inspectors say there are simple steps businesses and consumers can take to keep their mail safe.

“I contacted the businesses that were experiencing mail theft and advised them to pick up their mail immediately after it was delivered,” Alvarez said. “Most importantly, not to leave the mail overnight or over the weekend in the mailboxes.”

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