‘I feel ripped off’: Victim says check washing scam cost him $5K

CHARLOTTE — Action 9 noticed a lot of people posting on Nextdoor recently about thieves stealing their checks out of the mail and changing the information, what’s called “washing” them.

It’s something Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke has reported on often, but it’s not clear why there’s all this talk now.

Roger Tetrault was one of the people who posted about it. He says his experience started at the blue mailboxes outside the Matthews post office.

He says he mailed two checks and that someone stole them and changed two things: who they were made out to and the amounts (from $50 total to $1,000s each).

“One was for $3,000 and one was for $2,000. And I said, ‘I haven’t written these two checks,’” he told Stoogenke. “I feel ripped off.”

Even worse, Tetrault says he really needed that money, because he was getting a new roof. “So I had to go find another way to come up with [$]5,000 real quickly to pay [the roofer] the next day,” he said.


Tetrault warned others on Nextdoor. Some posted it happened to them too. One person even mentioned Stoogenke, saying, “The guy from Channel 9 said use a uni-ball 207 for all handwritten checks.”

If happens to you, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back. Still, Stoogenke always tries. He emailed Tetrault’s bank for him and Tetrault says it worked, that it replaced all $5,200.

If your mail gets stolen, keep a close eye on your bank accounts, freeze your credit (if you haven’t already), and follow these Eight Ways to Protect Yourself:

- Pick up mail quickly. Don’t leave it in the mailbox for a long time.

- If you can’t, use USPS’s hold service.

- Drop mail in the USPS blue boxes close to pick-up times.

- Better yet, drop off mail inside the post office directly if you’re worried.

- If you’re expecting money in the mail and don’t get it, don’t hesitate to tell the sender right away.

- Don’t mail cash.

- If you move, make sure everyone important has your new address.

- Use gel pens to write checks. They are hard to erase, especially the uni-ball 207. You can get them almost everywhere and they’re pretty cheap at just about $2 each.

Find more tips on the United States Postal Inspection Service website.

Tetrault’s bank adds:

- Use online or mobile banking features as payment alternatives.

- Consider using a cashier’s check.

- Set up account alerts.

- Review your statements and carefully review images/copies of cashed checks.

If you think someone stole your mail, report it online here or contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.

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