USPS Warns Consumers Against Mailing Checks Due to Fraud Risk

July 13, 2023

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has warned people to avoid sending checks through the mail. This warning comes after a significant increase in reports about stolen checks in the mail. According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, they received an estimated 300,000 complaints in 2021 and nearly 680,000 reports in 2022.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, thieves focused on stealing pandemic relief checks. Since then, mail theft has only worsened despite the government phasing out relief checks. As a result, the postal service and bank officials have warned people not to send checks by mail when possible. They also recommended using a secure mail drop if mailing the check proves necessary.

Small businesses often still use checks. If you are a small business owner, you will want to be very careful if you need to send them through the mail. Also, warn your clients to take care when mailing checks. Consider avoiding physical checks by including invoices that require electronic payments instead.

One example concerned a small public relations firm that lost over half of its checks stolen in one month due to check washing. Though the firm regained 70% of its revenue, it has removed the option for clients to pay via checks. Check washing allows thieves to replace the payment amount and payee’s name with a fake one.

In most cases, these thieves work in large, sophisticated organizations. The Inspection Service discovered that these operations often train people to infiltrate post office distribution centers, create fake aliases to deposit the checks, and even train to appear legitimate when cashing out. They also have people checking mailboxes for envelopes that look like bill payments or checks.

Unfortunately, these operations can lead to other crimes. In addition to altering and cashing out checks, they could acquire your personal information. Gaining access to this information could lead to identity theft, which has also grown rampant. Consequences of identity theft include thieves opening lines of credit in your name, taking out loans, or committing crimes in your name.

You should report to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the police if you believe thieves have stolen your checks. In addition, consider running a self-background check to obtain your credit report. Running a self-check will warn you about potential identity theft. It also allows you to dispute any incorrect information as needed.

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