According to the Wall Street Journal, stolen checks from mailboxes netted crooks in New York more than $ 30,000. The crime is called check washing and it involves crooks stealing outgoing mail from your mailbox. If they find a handwritten check, they “wash” the amount and payee off of the check and make it payable to co-conspirators, who cash the checks.

To keep your checks safe, pay bills online and forgo check writing to the extent possible. If you write checks to pay bills, take the envelope to a blue box or post office. Also, as an additional layer of security, use gel pens to write checks. The gel is a liquid, which is absorbed into the cotton fiber of the check paper and it can’t be washed off like ball point ink, which sits on the surface of the check paper. You can buy gel pens pretty much anywhere, try CVS or across the street at Walgreens.