A San Antonio woman's checks were stolen out of her own mailbox, washed, and then cashed by someone else.
Maria Galuppa's sister, who prefers to remain anonymous, remembers mailing out five checks to pay bills a couple weeks ago.
"On Dec. 10, she called her bank in the morning to see what checks had cleared," Galuppa said. "The bank told her the day before, on (Dec. 9), a check from her account was written at Walmart for $316.67."
Because Galuppa's sister keeps all the carbon copies of her checks, she was able to see that she had written out check No. 210, the one that had been cashed at Walmart to Sprint in the amount of $52.
She promptly called the bank to cancel her account and recalls being told by the bank clerk that there was a checkwashing scam going around.
"Checkwashing would be where the check is taken," said U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Martinez. "They use chemicals to remove the ink on their order to change the payee and the dollar amount and then what they do is they use that to fraudulently cash the check for a different amount."
Martinez confirms postal inspectors have seen reports of this activity going on here in San Antonio.
He warns checkwashing or not, mail theft is a serious offense.
"It's a federal crime to do any kind of mail theft if anybody steals mail, tampers with mail. If anybody tampers with mail, just for the mail theft alone, you're looking at up to five years in prison," Martinez said.
If you are a victim of stolen mail or check washing, you can call 877-876-2455 to report it or you can also do it online at www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
To avoid being a victim here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Use a locked mail slot or blue mail box when mailing envelopes with checks in them.
2. When ordering new checks, ask the bank if you can pick them up at the bank.
3. Shred or burn canceled checks or keep them secured in a lock box.