Mail And Check Fraud On The Rise In Florida
Recently in Delray Beach, police reported an uptick in stolen mail, check washing, and stolen checks amongst residents. Check theft, mail theft, and other forms of mail fraud have all plagued residents of Delray Beach. Residents say they are concerned not only because their bills are not getting paid, but because check fraud can affect their credit with creditors. It is also a blatant form of fraud and could result in a wiped checking account. So how can seniors and Palm Beach County residents protect themselves from check washing and mail fraud?
What is check washing?
Fraudsters looking for a quick payday are removing checks a resident has earmarked to pay for a tax or utility bill, then change the name of the payee on the check and attempt to cash the check themselves. They might also take the check and copy the account and router number for later use, illegally of course. People who routinely steal mail may also attempt to “wash the check” by literally removing the ink from it and rewriting over the check in different ink to make the check out to themselves or another person. One way to prevent check washing is to use gel-based ink pens, which are extremely difficult to erase. Checks are also equipped with safety features to prevent this from occurring. Most importantly, keeping track of check numbers you have written, the amounts and when payment was mailed can alert you if you are a potential victim.
Pay Bills Online; Stay Vigilant
One method to prevent sending checks through the mail is to pay bills online. Nearly all utility services, mortgage companies, phone or internet companies should allow a tenant, resident or borrower to pay for services online. This method is safer because sensitive banking information is encrypted and the payment confirmation is nearly instantaneous. However, it only works if the user understands how to verify internet safety and surf the web correctly. Visiting unverified websites, opening phishing emails or pop-up ads or entering payment information on a phony website can expose an elderly loved one to financial danger and identity theft. Teaching your elderly loved one basic internet safety skills and even enrolling in a computer literacy course together could go a long way in preventing a major mishap in the future.
Contact Tampa Elder Law Attorneys at Bubley & Bubley
If you or someone you know has been the victim of elder identity theft or check/mail fraud, it is crucial you file a police report as soon as possible. If you are the adult child of an elderly loved one and are concerned for their financial safety, including whether they may be vulnerable to a similar scheme, you may want to discuss options. Our Tampa estate planning attorneys at Bubley & Bubley can help walk you through several solutions including a financial power of attorney. You may also be able to help your elderly loved one with basic tools such as internet safety best practices. If you have additional questions, call our attorneys at Bubley & Bubley today.