Using a process known as check washing, mail snatchers erase the ink on a check with chemicals found in common household cleaning products or on the shelves of your local Walmart and then rewrite the checks to themselves, increasing the amount payable by hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Types of Chemicals Reported Used:
- Acetone, most widely used, is a highly volatile organic solvent used mainly as a hand-wipe solvent in cleaning applications. It is also a good drying agent for wet parts. But it will erase most inks from a stolen check without any noticeable effect.Reading the remarks on side of a can of Acetone, you will find out it effectively removes some greases, oils, waxes, and inks. It is commonly used to remove uncured fiberglass resins, varnish, and lacquer and may be useful for applications that require a highly volatile cleaner. Acetone may be applied by hand wipe or immersion in an unheated tank;
- Bleach, used in ever day cleaning in your home. Normally to whiten fibers in clothes washing.
- Carbon Tetrachloride, most widely used in carpet cleaning,
- Chloromice “T”, a mild form of bleach, used normally in the socking of baby diapers,
- Fox “IT”, used mostly with stamp collectors,
- Clear Correction Fluids,
- A high-performance eraser to erase everything from ballpoint pen ink, PPC and Diazo copy ink, to typewriter ribbon ink, drafting ink, and printed matter.
Problem at hand:
One woman became so adept at the technique she prowled the streets with a portable computer, printer and laminating machine in her car, cranking out new identification each time she swiped a batch of bills. Of course she had to take the time to wash the ink from the two vital areas of the check, making sure she doesn’t tamper with the written signature.
The problem has grown so severe that many local and federal authorities have formed task forces around the country, with agents from the Postal Inspection Service, U.S. attorney’s office, local police forgery units, FBI and Secret Service.
They offer the following advice to people with old-fashioned mailboxes:
- Don’t leave outgoing mail in an unlocked box. Take it to work, drop it in a collection box, hand it to a letter carrier or take it directly to the post office.
- If you have to leave outgoing mail in your box, do it immediately before the letter carrier comes, and don’t raise the mailbox flag.
- Avoid leaving mail in a box on Sundays and holidays, when letter carriers don’t work.
- Install a lock on your box. This can be done by placing the lock on your mailbox and then cutting a small slit in the mailbox that is large enough to slide mail through, but which is not big enough for a hand to fit in. Residents also can purchase a mailbox with a lock already on it for roughly $20 at a hardware store. In both cases, you will not be able to have outgoing mail picked up.