'Check washing' scam

Florida business woman falls victim, wants to warn others


MIAMI, Fla. – You've heard of money laundering but have you heard of check washing?  It's a crime where anyone can become a victim, even a Florida attorney.

"I wrote a check to my copy service for my law office," said Julie DiMaggio. 

She quickly realized something was wrong when she checked her bank statement.

"The check cashed for  $2,100 and I had actually written it for $125.00," DiMaggio explained.

When she called the copy center to complain, she realized the company was also a victim.

"They told me that they had  their mailbox broken into because it was outside and over a holiday weekend it went unchecked for several days and when they came in someone had taken all of their mail," said DiMaggio.

DiMaggio was just one of many.  Thieves had stolen the mail of several businesses.

"They had washed my check and put in their own information," she added.

"Check washing" is the process of erasing details from checks to allow them to be rewritten.

"The criminals took these checks and they erased the payee on the check, sometimes they erase the amounts on the checks as well," added US Postal Inspector Blanca Alvarez.

Postal inspectors say the criminals then go to a bank and cash the check.

"The checks were cashed because they looked legitimate, they were real checks they were just altered and the criminals were able to take the money from the checks that they cashed," Alvarez said.

Inspectors say there are simple steps businesses and all consumers can take to keep their mail safe.

"I contacted the businesses that were experiencing mail theft and advised them to pickup their mail immediately after it was delivered.  Most importantly, not to leave the mail overnight or over the weekend in the mailboxes," said Alvarez.

Postal inspectors want to emphasize how important it is for consumers to check their statements and check logs every month.

Meantime, we're told several people were arrested in connection with this "check washing" case.