Check washing is a type of check fraud where someone alters handwritten checks to steal funds from the checking account owner. They steal the check, often from an outside postal box, and the thief “washes” it by by using common household chemicals to remove the ink. Once they remove the ink, the scammer can rewrite the check with new information, such as writing their own name as the payee or for a higher amount. Check washing is a relatively uncomplicated form of fraud, yet it can be highly effective because the altered checks often look genuine and can go undetected by automated scanning systems.
How Do I Protect Myself from Check Washing Scammers?
To safeguard against check washing, you should use online bill payment methods rather than sending physical checks. You can reduce the risk of scammer stealing your check this way. If you must use handwritten checks, use a black gel ink pen. The gel seeps into the fibers of the check making it much harder to “wash”or erase. Then, take the envelopes with the checks directly to the post office to mail. This reduces the chance of criminals stealing your outgoing mail.
It’s important to stay alert. Check bank statements for any unauthorized transactions, and report any suspicious activity immediately to the relevant financial institutions or authorities.
What if I’ve Participated in a Check Washing Scheme?
In the state of Pennsylvania, being arrested for participating in a check washing scheme is serious and the penalties can be significant. The offense may result in significant legal consequences. You could go to prison, pay a hefty fine, and also have to pay restitution to the victims if you’re found guilty.
It’s important to note that the severity of the penalties may depend upon how much money was involved and your prior criminal history, especially if this isn’t your first arrest for check washing.
What Charges Can I Face?
Check washing isn’t a named charge in the PA Criminal Code. It’s just a term used to describe an act that fits crimes that have been specifically defined in the law.
The prosecution can charge you with Forgery, Access Device Fraud, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, and Receiving Stolen Property.
They might try to charge you with more crimes, but a good criminal defense lawyer will fight to stop that from happening in a check washing case.
What Are My Defenses?
You have defenses to a check washing case. As a criminal defendant, you don’t have the burden to prove anything. The prosecutor has the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
For example, if the prosecutor is missing important documents, witnesses, videos, or other evidence, they may not be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s your defense lawyer’s job to use their problems to your benefit. In addition to the prosecutor’s burden to prove their case, you have additional defenses.
Some of your defenses include:
- Mistaken identity
- No identification
- Lack of intent to defraud
- Lack of knowledge
- Duress or coercion
- Other defenses
Don’t plead guilty to an offense the prosecution can’t prove. Talk to a lawyer who’s experienced in check washing cases so they can apply the facts of your case to the law and give you a solid legal analysis and advise you about your options.
If You’ve Been Charged with Check Washing, Call Us
If you are facing criminal charges related to check washing in Pennsylvania, you should seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Shuttleworth Law can provide guidance, protect your legal rights, and advocate for the best possible outcome based on the fact of your case. Our experience is invaluable in navigating the legal system and potentially reducing the severity of the consequences you face.
Get your Free Case Evaluation now by calling 888-529-3486 or messaging us confidentially online. Our legal team can meet with you in person or via secure video conferencing.