Criminals Sell Stolen Paper Checks For Bitcoin

Just when you thought cybercriminals couldn’t get more creative… There’s a new trend: stealing US Postal Service paper checks and personal mailboxes and reselling them for Bitcoin.

Cybercriminal activity is increasing day by day along with an interest in the hot topic. What caught our attention this time, however, was a mix of traditional and new methods that surprised thousands of people in the United States. And it’s already spreading further – all from a mailbox.

Back to basics of flight

A new criminal ecosystem, which began by ransacking the US Postal Service and personal mailboxes for filled paper checks, has developed in recent months and is growing steadily. The criminals collect and sell the checks on the internet through common social media platforms or darknet communication channels.

The buyers then use nail polish remover to remove the original payee’s name (to later replace it with a new one) and increase the amount of the checks, depriving the victims’ bank account of thousands of dollars. Not only have many banks already suffered, reimbursing the lost monies, but the identity of the victims is also at stake. For those affected, the consequences of these mail scams can be horrific.

Paper check theft is far from a recent phenomenon. Check frauds are almost as old as the first modern checks – which have been around for over 300 years – but what makes the authorities’ job particularly difficult this time around is the involvement of crypto-money laundering. cash. There is also an element of surprise, as no one expected the sudden upsurge in check thefts as transactions have become predominantly electronic these days.

The findings of Georgia State University

At the time of writing, a cybersecurity research group at Georgia State University, led by David Maimon, an associate professor of criminal justice and criminology, is monitoring 60 online chat rooms with suspected traffic of fraudulent documents. . Some of these chat rooms exist on public channels such as messaging apps (WhatsApp, Telegram, ICQ), others are more private and require specific software, setup, or invitation to be rated.

While there is little historical data on this practice, a week-long pilot study we conducted in October 2020 puts these numbers into some perspective.

Professor David Maimon

So far, Professor David Maimon has published findings from August to October 2021 showing a clear upward trend in the sale of stolen cheques. In August 2021, approximately 409 stolen checks were sold per week. In September, the total reached 634, and in October, that number rose to 1,325. Just a year earlier, that number was more than 8 times smaller, 158 – as shown in a week-long pilot study that the research group conducted in October 2020.

These numbers likely represent only a small fraction of the number of checks actually stolen and sold. We focused on just 60 markets, when in fact there are thousands currently active.

Professor David Maimon

The research group found that the total face value of the checks was around $10.2 million in September and $11.6 million in October. However, the research group admits that these figures are likely to represent only a small fraction of the actual amount of money stolen – since criminals typically rewrite checks for much higher amounts. According to research, most robbery victims live in Florida, Texas, and California.

Prevention is better than cure

As with most scams today, prevention is the best cure. So avoid mailing paper checks whenever you can. These days, your bank will allow you to transfer money electronically for most of your private and business payments, directly from your account, and often at no cost. Of course, electronic payments aren’t completely risk-free either, but they are much safer, all risk factors taken into account.

If you cannot avoid paying your bills by check (some private companies only accept these), or if it is a matter of preference, we suggest that you personally drop off all envelopes containing checks at your office. local post office by following these tips from the United States Postal Inspection Service.

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