COLLIER COUNTY, Fla — Collier County deputies say they’ve seen an increase in incidents where thieves take checks from overnight rent boxes or mail boxes and alter the amount on the checks.
Scammers steal a check, then use a special fluid to remove your signature and put their own dollar amount on the check.
“This is one of the reasons why we ask people to frequently check their bank statements, online, because this and many other scams are first gonna be seen by you whenever you check your statements,” said Collier County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Brian Sawyer.
Check washing incidents are popping up in Golden Gate, Golden Gate City, Ave Maria and North Naples, where one neighbor says his mother was the victim of another kind of mail fraud.
“We checked the mailbox, we opened it, there was a Suncoast envelope in there, because my mom had ordered a new debit card and it was already opened, we didn’t know what to do,” said Christian Puerta.
There are a few things you can do to prevent check washing:
-Hand in your rent checks directly to your landlord.
-Write checks in gel pen, not ballpoint.
-Use a P.O. Box.
-Do not use return envelopes with the utility logo or municipality for tax payments on them.
"If you use a secure form a payment such as a credit card, the amount of information is limited and it can limit the direct access they have to your bank account,” said Sawyer.
CCSO says there have been no arrests made in these check washing schemes. Mail fraud is a federal offense, anyone who thinks they were a victim should call the U.S. Postal Service Inspectors Office at 877-876-2455 and choose option 4.