Media City Credit Union in Burbank, a financial cooperative who returns its earnings back to its Member-Owners, aims to offer comprehensive financial education to its existing and prospective members. In the credit union spirit of “People Helping People,” Media City hopes to educate people about paper check fraud and “check washing” so they can protect themselves and their loved ones from financial losses.
Check fraud is on the rise again, and MCCU has been noticing more fraudulent activity recently. It is one of the most common forms of financial crime because it is easy to execute in several different ways by bad actors who are obtaining checks by stealing them out of the mail or breaking into USPS postal boxes.
Most frequently, today’s check cashing fraud comes in the form of “check washing,” where bad actors literally wash ink off of a check and rewrite on the check to alter the payee and dollar amount. Protect yourself, your family, and your friends by educating yourself on ways to prevent check fraud:
- Monitor your checking account regularly: By keeping track of your checking account and spending habits regularly, you will be able to notice when suspicious or unauthorized transactions are being made within your account.
- Alert your financial institution of suspicious activity: It is important to monitor your accounts for unusual activity and to try to keep track of the cashing of issued checks. If you notice suspicious activity in your accounts or involving your checks, alert your financial institution as soon as possible.
- Write on checks using a gel ink pen: One simple way to avoid check washing fraud is by switching the pen you are using to fill out checks. A gel ink pen is much more permanent on paper and difficult to wash off, whereas ballpoint pen ink can be washed off paper quite easily.
- Avoid mailing checks if you do not have to: Many bad actors are taking advantage of mail theft strategies as a way to obtain checks that do not belong to them and commit financial crimes. Whenever possible, avoid sending checks in the mail to prevent chances of check theft. If you haven’t tried it already, remote deposit capture is a great way to use technology to deposit checks right from home.
- Try using electronic tools to pay your bills: In today’s digital age there are several ways to pay bills online that do not require you to send payments via mail. Check out different online tools that allow you to pay bills or send money digitally.
- Be aware of mailbox theft: Mailbox theft continues to be a problem across the country. Whether it be checks, packages, or other personal mail stolen, bad actors are participating in mail theft at USPS postal blue boxes and personal mailboxes. Be mindful of mail theft and add a lock to your mailbox if possible.
- Enroll in USPS Informed Delivery: Enrolling in USPS Informed Delivery online services informs you of what to expect in your mailbox in advance.
Media City Credit Union has policies and procedures in place to mitigate losses and we are here to protect and support our members. However, everyone has a responsibility to prevent check fraud. Use the tips above to avoid check fraud and continue to be mindful of your accounts. If you suspect fraudulent check washing, please reach out to us for assistance and file a report with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It’s better to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to your finances.
About Media City Credit Union
Media City Credit Union has served its members since 1936 when we were founded by employees of Helms Bakeries. A credit union is like a bank, only better. Media City offers checking, savings, credit cards and loans, yet profits are returned back to members in the form of reduced fees, higher savings rates and lower loan rates. Media City CU is a financial cooperative, giving back to its member-owners.
The credit union provides fee-free access at 75,000 ATMs worldwide and provides online account access. If you live, work, worship, or attend school anywhere in Burbank, or if you have a relative who is already a member, you can become a member too. As soon as you join, your family members also become eligible. Media City CU partnered with the ChangeWorks Foundation and by making a minimum $25 donation to this wonderful cause (Media City matches the $25 donation), you also become eligible for membership. New members enjoy immediate access to all services, including loans.