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What is Check Fraud? What Is Check Washing? Are They The Same Thing?

Check Fraud refers to a series of white collar crimes involving fraudulent checks. Check fraud can cover anything from larceny, to identity theft, to forgery. Check washing describes a form of check fraud which involves stealing checks, often from the mail, and using chemicals to wash details on the check such as the amount or signature, which are replaced with new details or a forged signature. 

If you are accused of check washing, you are likely facing multiple serious charges such as identity theft, larceny and forgery. Each of these crimes by itself carries a significant prison sentence. If you are accused of any kind of check fraud, you need to hire an experienced Boston Check Fraud Attorney immediately. 

What is Check Fraud and Is it Different From Check Washing?

Check fraud is a term that refers to multiple different crimes, which include check washing and writing bad checks, sometimes known as “paper-hanging.” In Massachusetts, check fraud, or “uttering false checks” is a specific crime  that involves writing a bad check, which can lead to larceny charges. Bad checks are checks cashed from accounts that have insufficient funds.

If you write a “bad check” in Massachusetts, you could quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a charge of check fraud. After writing a check on an account with insufficient funds you have two days to rectify the funds before charges can be filed. If the check is worth more than $1200, check fraud is a felony and you can spend up to 5 years in state prison with fines of up to $25,000.

In a check washing scheme, checks stolen from the mail are treated with chemicals and then fraudulently cashed. Check washing involves identity theft, as well as larceny. Identity theft is punishable in Massachusetts by up to 2 and a half years in the house of corrections and a fine of up to $5000. If the check is stolen from the mail, and it is worth over $1200, it can result in a charge of larceny, subject to the penalties above.

Why Is Check Fraud in the News? 

Check Fraud is in the news because it is a crime that has exploded in recent years. Check washing became an attractive way to obtain fraudulent funds after pandemic checks were stolen and altered. The rise of electronic deposits has also accelerated check fraud. 

What to Do if You Are Accused of Check Fraud or Check Washing?

If you have been accused of check fraud you should retain an experienced Boston Fraud Attorney immediately. Check fraud is a charge that may befall people who are innocent or at a lower level of a criminal enterprise, such as “walkers,” often elderly or homeless people who are hired in check washing schemes to deposit fraudulent checks.

The experienced and hard hitting criminal defense attorneys at Dhar Law, LLP, can defend you against the most serious charges that the prosecution will level against you. We have decades of experience fighting cases in state and federal courts. We believe in the right to a fair trial and understand that serious charges involving check fraud should be met with a robust defense. If you have been accused of any form of check fraud, please contact our attorneys as soon as possible so we can build a strong defense in your case. 


Have you or a family member been charged or arrested? It’s important not to make mistakes early on in your case. Download our PDF on the top 3 things to do to help your defense or if you have been arrested by the State Police or FBI or you are the subject of an FBI Arrest Warrant.

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Heading up the firm, Vikas Dhar is widely recognized as a leader in the New England legal community. An accomplished business litigator and a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney, he has also been honored as a New England Super Lawyer/Rising Star in the area of White-Collar Criminal Defense for each of the past six years by Boston Magazine.

I have the power and the skill to be able to save people from themselves. I can be your guide during the darkness. I can hold your hand and navigate you out of the darkness into the light.

— Vikas Dhar
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