LINDENHURST, Long Island (WABC) -- Signing and sending checks through the U.S. mail may be the old-fashioned way to pay, but now it's the new source of a sinister scam that's costing consumers millions each year.
The growing scam is called check washing - thieves steal checks out of the mail, remove the ink and then forge and cash them for big bucks.
Last year alone it cost consumers $815 million. So how do you foil the fraud? Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side has tips to foil the fraud.
Rudy Markard was in disbelief when a $42 check he mailed out to pay his phone bill had been forged then cashed by someone he never heard of.
The amount debited his bank account was changed to $7,000.
"All of a sudden, I have a check for $7,000 that I don't know anything about," Markard said. "I just don't know how anybody could do that."
The $7,000 setback hit Markard hard. The Coast Guard veteran is living on a fixed income and battling leukemia.
His niece, Mary Posadas, manages his daily cancer drugs and battles his bank. She said it is just wrong how they treated her uncle.
Just days after the forged check cleared, Markar made the right moves and got a police report and reported the forged check.
Posadas said it looked like it had been written with crayon.
"They said no problem, it'll take 7 to 10 days, no trouble," Markard said.
That was last spring, but a half a year later Markard said he was absolutely violated.
He hasn't received any of his money back. His bank, Chase, says Capital On, the bank that cashed the check was "responsible for repayment."
"I feel like I was put on the phone with someone who just gave me the runaround," Posadas said.
There are two big takeaways: never put outgoing checks in an unattended or unlocked mailbox - if you can, mail them inside your local post office.
And if you use a blue postal mailbox, never mail checks after the last pickup of the day.
And just a few days after 7 On Your Side's calls to the two banks, the money was restored in full.
The banks apologized and after we called started working together. Both said they were glad to resolve and refund Markar.
SHARE YOUR STORY
Do you have an issue with a company that you haven't been able to resolve? If so, 7 On Your Side wants to help you!
Fill out the form below or email your questions, issues, or story ideas by filling out the form below or by emailing 7OnYourSideNina@abc.com. All emails MUST INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND CELLPHONE NUMBER. Without a phone number, 7 On Your Side will not be able to respond.