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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: All washed up checks

CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- Check Washing, it's a crime and it can cost you, if you're not careful.

This scheme involves changing the payee name on a check and stealing thousands of dollars.  Everyone is a potential victim if your mail is not in a secure location.

A savvy business owner had cameras installed to watch their mailbox after reports of suspicious break-ins.
 
Rachel Sileski, US Postal Inspector, said, "He got a ping on his cellphone and he was able to zoom in and identify his business mailbox was being broken into."
 
The video shows the car and image of Wilfredo Bermudez, the ringleader of a scam that cost victims more than $50,000 dollars.
 
Sileski said, "He was obtaining business checks, he would wash and alter them and make them payable to himself and deposit them or cash them at the banks they were drawn on."
 
"Check Washing" is the process of erasing details from checks to allow them to be rewritten.
 
"The checks that they obtained could be anywhere from $200 to $8,000. There was a large range of checks they negotiated," said Sileski.
 
In fact, they were often able to retrieve cash immediately and quickly by going to the bank where the check was drawn.
 
"So they could use their true identification and the check would be made payable to themselves and without question they could go in and cash it," Sileski explains.
 
Postal Inspectors say this is yet another lesson on how important it is for all consumers to protect their identity.  Postal Inspector Sileski advises to be very diligent about checking your bank accounts and credit card statements for fraudulent transactions.  Your checking and savings should be checked often as well to make sure everything is reconciled and all the checks can be accounted for.
 
Postal Inspectors recommend requesting a free yearly credit check.  The suspect in this case was sentenced to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than 50,000 dollars restitution to his victims.
    


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