Check Washing Scams: How Check Washing Works – An Overview

You might think that with all of the technology that identity thieves have today that they would not even bother with a method called check washing. And that is exactly what they want you to believe.

Check washing or bleaching is a practice where identity thieves erase the ball point ink that is written on checks and insert their own name and amount.

I was reminded of this practice just the other day when I was shopping for some new pens. On a package of clickable pens was written “helps prevent check fraud”. At first you might think this is just a marketing ploy to scare people into buying these pens over some that do not prevent check fraud, but this crime is a real problem.

How do I know? I actually did a little experiment and tried to erase the ink from some spare checks that I had lying around.

I am not going to say what household chemical worked best because it is not the point of this article to teach how to wash checks but rather how to prevent it from happening to you. But what I did notice that the checks that had ball point pen blue ink on them were very easy to erase. The black ink was a little harder to erase and left a little trace of ink behind. But the Uniball pens I bought that were meant to “help prevent check fraud” actually faired the best. The ink on these checks only faded a little and could never be used by an identity thief.

So how do you protect yourself against check washing and check fraud?

Here are a few simple tips.

First of all, try to avoid using checks altogether. Most people don’t like using checks anymore because they are a hassle, but they can also be a security risk. Now, that being said, there are times you absolutely must use a check. In those cases use a gel pen like the Pilot G2 or the Uniball gel pen that I used. Gel pens allow the ink to sink into the fiber of the paper and are virtually impossible to erase.

When you pay your bills every month, drop the checks off at the post office rather than mailing them out from your mailbox. Most instances of check fraud happen because of stolen mail, and this helps to minimize the risk. You can also get a security mailbox or locking mailbox which only allows mail to go in, and requires a lock to be opened in order to get mail out.

Protecting your financial assets is part of protecting your identity, so make sure you are taking the proper precautions to avoid check fraud and keep it from happening to you.

An identity theft protection service should also be an option for you to consider. You can check out more helpful tips on guarding your identity at