Avoid Check Washing With Special Ink?

I’ve written in the past about how to protect yourself when writing checks (see also “Checkbook Security“), but I haven’t talked much about “check washing.” Check washing refers to the chemical removal of ink from a check that you’ve written such that fraudsters can change the amount and make it payable to themselves. Apparently check washing results in losses totalling $815 million annually in the United States.

Obviously, the best way to protect yourself from check washing is to keep your checks out of the wrong hands in the first place. But failing that, is there anything else that you can do? According to an advertisement that we received that last time we ordered checks, the answer is yes…

Apparently Eberhard Faber has come out with a pen called the Uni-Ball 207 that features a “special ink” that gets “trapped in the paper, ” making check washing impossible. I have no idea how well these actually work but, for what it’s worth, these are apparently the only pens endorsed by identity thief turned identity theft expert Frank Abegnale (the subject of the movie Catch Me if You Can). Of course, as online billpay becomes the norm, this will become less and less of an issue.

Have any of you used these? If so, what did you like them? Next time I’m in the market for pens, maybe I’ll try them out.

9 Responses to “Avoid Check Washing With Special Ink?”

  1. Anonymous

    ” Of course, as online billpay becomes the norm, this will become less and less of an issue.”

    I sincerely doubt that – identity theft occurs often online. I’ve had my account information stolen offline twice. In one case, the bank refused to pursue the matter without a police report, the local police refused to file report because “the crime happened in the other city where your number was used” and the police in that city refused to file a report because “the crime happened when you lost your credit card.” The fact that I had not lost my card and that the theft occurred online was dismissed out of hand by both police departments. Neither police department followed established interstate banking fraud procedure as outlined by the FBI. This will be more of a problem, not less, unless the police start following protocols and banks cooperate.

  2. Anonymous

    The uniball signo 207 is very resistant to washing with the most common organic solvents in my own testing

    actually ballpoint pens hold up better than most gel inks other than the uniball singo 207.

    the uniball signo rt 0.38mm seems to hold up just as well as the signo 207 ink even though they don’t say anything about anti check washing.

    Also if you use fountain pens Noodler inks has a security challenge to prove their inks are resistant to check washing.

  3. Anonymous

    I have conducted actual tests in check washing. It is a process that takes about 15-30 seconds using some very common materials, which I will not divulge.

    Bic makes a pen also that cannot be “washed”, it is a common 59 cent Bic Roller-Ball. It has the same “special ink” that Eberhard Faber is using, without the special marketing costs.

    We tried to remove the ROller Ball ink with everything that was used to rinse the traditional ink. The result was we started removing and smearing the print on the check itself. The Roller ink stood strong!

    Traditional ink is like paint and stays on the surface. Roller Ball ink is very thin and a much different consistency that gets absorbed into the paper fibers. Much like fabric die.

    Nickel is correct, keeping those checks safe in the first place is priority one. Using a Bic Roller Ball is a good safety net.

  4. Nickel

    I would imagine that the ink from Bic Stics would wash pretty easily — that’s just a regular ballpoint, right? So the ink is just riding on the surface.

    As for carrying checks with you, I only bring a check when I know I’m going to use it. In this age of plastic, there’s no real need. But that doesn’t protect you from check washing, which happens after you part ways with your check.

  5. Anonymous

    Yum. Gel pens. I actually prefer BIC stics and I never carry blank checks with me. I don’t understand people who do that. I write checks at home and that’s it.

    There’s a nice BIC gel pen my office uses. I have generally had a preference for UNIBALL and BIC brands since high school. Pilot Rollerballs are ok too, but they can get squidgy and leave a blot when you first touch the page. I could geek out endlessly about pen and pen technology. Whatever you do, don’t write checks with a fountain pen and Parker Washable Blue ink, for obvious reasons. 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    I have been using a GEL pen for checkwriting after reading several articles that suggested it to combat check washing. The last time I went shopping for a new gel pen to replace mine I noticed they are now selling pens marked as esp for anti checkwashing. Same brand and it looked the same as my reg gel pen only they were charging more for it.

  7. Anonymous

    I haven’t verified the ink for ‘washing’ resistance, but I do enjoy the easy writing of this pen. I use the .7mm size (medium) with black ink. For my hand and grip, the pen is quite comfortable and doesn’t slide around with the ‘rubber-like’ coating near the writing end of the pen.

    I recommend at least a trial of one each.

  8. Anonymous

    The pens are nice, but I print my checks rather than write them out by hand. If you use MICR toner (magnetic ink) and the check gets scrubbed, then the easiest thing to come off will be the signature. If they did get the toner off of the check, then the magnetic residue could still be left behind and be verified at a later date during a dispute.

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