Still writing checks? Always use indelible ink

If you or a loved one are still paying their bills by writing checks, be sure to pick up some indelible ink to help protect your money from crooks.
indelible ink

Despite a decline in check usage, indelible ink may be more important than ever.

Check fraud has continued to rise over the last three years, according to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network data. This report cited more than 680,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) related to check fraud in 2022, more than double the number in 2021.

Back in 2014, the Federal Crimes Enforcement Network only cited 96,786 check fraud cases. So, despite the decline in check writing, cases of fraud have risen significantly over the past decade.

A form of check fraud called “check washing” has also made headlines in 2023. It involves a scammer taking a check out of the mail, “washing” off the ink with chemicals,” writing in their name, cashing it, and draining your bank account.

While this can sound frightening, there is a simple solution can help you protect yourself from check fraud and all it involves is the stroke of a pen…but not just any pen.

When writing a check, the pen’s ink matters. Here’s why experts recommend using indelible ink on a check.

example of signing a check with indelible ink

What is indelible ink?

Indelible ink is a type of ink that is permanent and cannot be easily removed or erased once it has been applied to a surface. The term “indelible” comes from the Latin word “indelibilis,” which means “incapable of being deleted.”

How can indelible ink prevent check fraud?

Using a black gel pen with indelible ink makes check-washing challenging. Why? The ink gets into the fibers of a check, so it’s not so easy for a bad actor to remove it, even with chemicals.

The chemical composition of indelible ink varies depending on its intended use, but it often contains solvents, pigments, and resins that allow it to adhere permanently to surfaces and resist removal by water, washing, or rubbing.

Where else is indelible ink used?

Checks aren’t the only use case for indelible ink. This sort of permanent ink is common across a few other industries as well.

  1. Legal documents: To ensure that signatures, annotations, and notations cannot be altered without leaving evidence.
  2. Election marking: Many countries use indelible ink to mark the fingers of voters during elections to prevent double voting.
  3. Permanent markers: These are commonly used for labeling and are designed to be waterproof, smear-proof, and fade-resistant.
  4. Fabric markers: For permanently marking clothing or textiles.

Where can I find indelible ink pens?

Black gel pens with indelible ink are highly accessible. You can find packs of them on Amazon or at Staples for less than $10. The most important part? These pens can save the money in your bank account from scammers.

example of indelible ink pen on a check

A few more ways to protect yourself from check fraud

Aside from indelible ink pens, you can take a few more steps to ward off your risk of becoming a check fraud victim, including mailing your check at the post office, where scammers are less likely to get their hands on it.

Keep an eye on your checks every step of the way. You can set up email alerts to inform you that the bank received your check and has been cleared and processed.

If you’re willing to part ways with tradition, nearly every organization, business, and governmental agency will now accept credit card, debit card, electronic payment directly from your bank account (ACH) or another form of digital payment at this point. While these more modern forms of payment are by no means 100% safe from fraud and scams, they do have more modern forms of security and typically provide quick and simple means for stopping a fraudulent payment.

If you or a loved one is a victim of check fraud, report it to the United States Postal Service.

Have another question? Ask an expert.

Our team is here for you. If you have a question about caring for an older adult or other member of your family—be it physical, legal, medical, financial, or anything in between—we’ll have one of our Trusted Advisors get back to you ASAP.

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