An Ohio woman has revealed how a cruel scammer stole a check she had mailed – and then used it to drain her account just days before Christmas.
Carole Wesolowski had $5,000 taken out of her checking account after a woman tricked bank branch staff into cashing the check with a fake ID that had Carole’s name but the crook’s photo.
The astonishing moment was even caught on the firm’s security camera. Even though the suspect is in full view on the footage, she has yet to be caught.
Wesolowski and her husband, of Maumee, Ohio, had mailed a check earlier in the month – which they believe was then stolen by the thief.
The woman reportedly then doctored the check to a larger amount – as part of a con known as a ‘check washing’.
The criminal then cashed the altered check – taking money from her victim’s account at the bank. While checks can be paid into bank accounts, it is also possible for the person cashing them to simply take the amount in banknotes – as the criminal did in this cae.
Wesolowski was only alerted to what had happened when she received a letter from her bank on December 20 about the check. After a battle she got the money back.
She told WTVG: ‘They have her on camera, cashing this check, she also has a fake ID with my information on it but her picture. She took $5,000 out of our checking account.
‘Once they get your check, they’ve got your name, they’ve got your address and then they’ve got your checking account information on the bottom. And they can get so much more information on you.’
She added the incident had left her ‘violated.’
Fortunately, Wesolowski’s daughter works at the bank who was able to review the security footage.
She had recently watched a WTVG report on a serial identity fraud and told her stepmother she believed it was the same woman who stole her identity.
Wesolowski then filed a police report and was able to get her money back – though the suspect has still not been caught.
Americans are being urged to be on high-alert for incidents of check fraud. Earlier this year the Government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) warned cases of check fraud almost doubled from 350,000 to 680,000 between 2021 and 2022.
Officials said there had been reports of thieves attacking mail carriers’ or stealing their arrow keys, which are master keys that open boxes.
Crooks then engage in the ‘check washing’ scam whereby they scrub out some of the details using tools as simple as nail polish remover – but leave the signature untouched.
They can then put their own details on the check, alter the amount and deposit it. Some of these checks are even shared between crooks on the dark web.
John Ravita, director of business development at SQN Banking Systems, recently told the New York Times: ‘You can buy checks on the internet for $45, with a perfectly good signature.
‘There is one website that offers a money-back guarantee. It’s like Nordstrom.’
Wesolowski and her husband say they now use better precautions when sending checks – such as writing on them with sharpie pen because it makes it harder to wash.
They also hand the check to postal workers inside the post office rather than use a drive-by box and only put their names on it – rather than the whole address.
It comes after Oregon police sounded the alarm over an apparent identity theft who bears a striking resemblance to Wesolowski’s assailant.
The woman is said to have hit at least five banks using a fake passport and stolen social security numbers.
Investigators said she may not be working alone and has been spotted getting into the passenger’s side of a black Honda Civic.
Anybody who believes they know the suspect is being urged to contact Oregon Police.