(GoRealNewsNow.com) – The end of checks as a payment method may be near due to a tremendous surge in “organized mail crime,” which began during the coronavirus pandemic but keeps gaining traction.
Last year, check fraud almost doubled as banks reported 680,000 check scams to the US Treasury Department compared with 350,000 in 2021, The Washington Times reports.
Thus, check fraud victims lost $24 billion in 2022, according to the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which handles the scams.
In 2021, the US Postal Inspection Service registered roughly 300,000 mail theft complaints, more than double the 2020 number.
Most check fraud incidents involve thieves stealing stamped envelopes with checks from mailboxes, commercial bins, or blue collection boxes.
However, in other incidents, gun- or knife-wielding “gangs of young thieves” rob letter carriers for their “arrow” keys, thus gaining access to city postal boxes.
According to the US Postal Service, 412 letter carriers were robbed on the job in the 2022 fiscal year. However, that number is expected to more than double in FY 2023, as its first half (October 1, 2022 – March 31, 2023) saw 305 robberies of letter carriers.
The report stresses that the spike in mail crimes has led bank investigators to conclude that while “many older adults” still consider checks a safe payment method, those “have become the riskiest way of paying bills in the digital age.”
“Checks are probably going to be phased out as the next generations grow up without using them,” commented Mark Solomon, a vice president of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators, a California-based nonprofit.
“Financial institutions and retailers have become very suspicious of them because of how much fraud there is right now,” he added.
He noted that EMV chip card technology and improved verification methods for debit and credit cards had led criminals to “the ease of ‘washing’” and rewriting checks, forging checkbooks, or selling their banking and routing numbers.
The report notes during the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal gangs targeted government relief checks. Once those ended, the gangsters shifted to stealing bill payment checks from firms and individuals.