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Cooking and Washing: Financial Fraudsters Redefine Household Chores

have you heard of cooking checks, or washing checks?

In the banking industry, terms like "cook" and "wash" are now being co-opted by fraudsters to describe illicit activities that undermine financial security. Traditionally associated with household chores, these words have been redefined by criminals to signify sophisticated methods of check fraud, targeting both individuals and financial institutions. But what do these terms mean in the context of fraud?

Washing Checks: Erasing Authenticity

Washing checks involves the fraudulent practice of chemically removing or altering ink on a legitimate check to change the written amount or payee. Fraudsters use chemicals such as bleach or acetone to erase or modify the original writing on the check. For example, a check written for $5.00 can be altered to $500 without any visible signs of tampering. Similarly, the payee's name can be changed, transforming a check made out to John Doe into one payable to Jane Doe.

Cooking Checks: Digitally Deceptive

"Cooking checks" refers to the fraudulent practice of electronically altering a check image using photo editing software to change key details such as the total amount or recipient’s name. The altered check is then printed as a counterfeit for deposit or sale.

This method differs from washing as it does not involve the physical check. Instead, a fraudster scans a genuine check and uses software to alter crucial information. The counterfeit check is then printed to deposit or sell it, bypassing physical evidence of alteration.

Motivation Behind the Fraud

These fraudulent methods are commonly employed by criminals daily. While some fraudsters alter checks for personal use, many create counterfeit checks to sell to other criminals. This type of fraud is organized, akin to a corporate operation with various roles. The fraudsters who alter checks often sell them to those willing to take the risk of depositing the fraudulent checks at financial institutions.

Fraudsters frequently advertise their services on social media, dark web forums, and messaging platforms, showcasing their illicit activities and finding buyers for their counterfeit checks.

Conclusion

Understanding the methods of "cooking" and "washing" checks is crucial for professionals in the banking industry. Awareness and vigilance are key in combating these sophisticated forms of check fraud, safeguarding the financial sector from these deceptive practices.

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