GREENSBORO, N.C. — You know better than to put a gift card or a check to pay a bill in your mailbox. It's literally like raising a red flag to the scammers and saying take me!
A common solution, the blue USPS mailbox, but thieves came up with a way to target them, without breaking in.
THIEF “WASHES” CHECK & CASHES IT FOR $6,000
Diana Strader makes the trip from Stokesdale to Greensboro several times a week to visit her great aunt.
“I take her to doctor appointments and things like that. It’s a wonderful relationship and there's no way I was going to let someone do her like that,” said Diana Strader.
Just what did someone do to Diana’s great aunt?
“She wrote a check to pay her Spectrum bill and I took it to the post office on West Market Street in Greensboro like I always do, every month with her bills. Someone had taken the check,” said Strader.
The check was originally for $126.86 and the thief changed everything and wrote it for $6,009.
“I was in touch with a lady at the bank and she told me this was going to the fraud department and this could take up to 120 days for her to get her money back,” said Strader.
WHERE IS THE MONEY? 2 WANTS TO KNOW FINDS OUT
The bank's fraud investigator asked for copies of the Spectrum bill, the canceled check, and an affidavit. Then, they waited and waited.
“We gave them our 120 days and I never heard one more word from that bank. They didn't update us, I called and left message after message email after email, it was like they dropped off the face of the earth. Finally, when I reached out to WFMY News 2, it was a Thursday and by Monday, they called my aunt and said her money would be back in the bank,” said Strader.
Six-thousand dollars, gone for more than four months.
“My aunt said, she would have let this go because she didn't know what to do. And I said, no ma'am, we're not letting this go, because it's just not right,” said Strader.
HOW OFTEN DOES CHECK FRAUD HAPPEN?
More often than you think. “A lot of times I'll get someone asking, do people still write checks, and indeed they do,” said Paige Hanson of Norton-Lifelock.
Hanson says scammers are finding new ways to get those checks. She also says blue post office mailboxes are an easy target.
“They (the thieves) take a water bottle put some sticky stuff on it and kinda go fishing in the mailbox, they swirl it around, the sticky stuff picks up the mail, they pull it out and then they have all this mail,” said Hanson.
Hanson says it's no secret what happens next. Thieves use acetone like nail polish remover or paint thinner to lift the ink off the check. They change the amount and the payee. The next thing you know, you're out $6,000 like Diana's great aunt.
“My aunt said if this story helps one person, it was worth it so someone else doesn't have to go through this. Thank you, there is no doubt that if I hadn't contacted you, I would still be dealing with this,” said Strader.
3 THINGS EVERY CHECK WRITER SHOULD DO TO PROTECT THEMSELVES
#1 Always use a gel-based pen. You can get them at Walmart or Target. The ink of a gel-based pen can't be lifted by acetone.
#2 Put alerts on your checking account so you know when any transaction goes through and for how much.
#3 Ask for the check! So many people use mobile banking now. When you give them your check, they scan it and do what? They throw it away making it easy pickings.
“Have the conversation, either ask them to deposit it in front of you and take your check back or ask them to shred the check when they're done,” said Hanson.