Drew Baker, aka “Captain Safety,” is our Risk Specialist here at GHCU. He knows a lot about how fraud is perpetrated, and he’s going to be a frequent guest blogger. We hope his expertise will help our members and readers protect themselves from identity thieves and other scam perpetrators.
Leaving sensitive information in your outgoing mail is becoming increasingly risky. Unsecured mailboxes are an open an invitation to criminals.
A few years ago, some of my mother’s checks were stolen out of her mailbox. The checks were “washed” and cashed for different amounts than they were originally written, and by different people than the intended payees. In order to have the charges reversed, she had to file a police report and fill out affidavits for the bank. Since the checks were for merchants and assorted bills, she had to prove the fraud to the merchants who did not receive their intended payments. It was a lengthy process, and the loss to her sense of security is something she may never recover.
Risk Management has seen an increase in this type of fraud occurring on GHCU member accounts this year. Every GHCU check washing case in 2009 involved members with an unsecured mailbox, who were writing paper checks and putting them in the mailbox with the flag up. The raised flag on an old-fashioned mailbox is becoming a beacon for fraudsters, identity thieves and check washers, who waltz down your street plucking ripe checks and personal information. You can prevent this from happening to you, and the fixes are relatively simple:
- Sign up for free online bill pay. It’s that easy. Visit GHCU.org to enroll.
- Drop off mail in a secure USPS mailbox or at the post office.
- There are a few pens on the market that can prevent check washing by using special ink. Try your local office supply store.
Help to reverse this fraud trend and keep your checks, personal information and neighborhood safe. If you suspect some of your outgoing mail/checks have been intercepted, immediately notify GHCU. Please share this with your loved ones and neighbors.
Do you have a fraud or identity theft question to ask Captain Safety? Leave your question in the comments, or email them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, do NOT include personal information in comments or emails!