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Post: Why You Should Be Worrying About The Rise In Check Fraud And Thieves Stealing Your Mail



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I didn’t think thieves would be so brazen to steal mail. After all, it’s a federal crime. Yet an increasingly amount of theft is occurring where checks are stolen from mail.

Checks stolen from snail mail are not difficult to perpetrate. It’s easy to spot a standard envelope containing a check. Thieves then rip the check out of the envelope, change the payee to themselves or create new fake checks.

I know how they work since this happened to me while I was managing my father’s estate after he died several years ago. When my banker called me to ask if I had cashed a check in Maryland (where I don’t live and hadn’t been), I told him to call the police and close the account.

Fortunately, the banker’s quick action prevented the loss of money from my father’s account. I wasn’t responsible for the stolen check and I immediately reported it to my local police department. My bank immediately flagged the incident for their fraud division. I signed an affidavit attesting to the fraud for the bank and I was on my way.

Lately I’ve seen reports of robbers taking the “master keys” of apartment mail boxes from postal delivery workers so that they can rifle through mail for checks. This kind of crime is not abating, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Treasury (FinCen).

“Despite the declining use of checks in the United States, criminals have been increasingly targeting the U.S. Mail since the COVID-19 pandemic to commit check fraud,” FinCen reported in an alert earlier this year.

“The US Postal Service (USPS) delivers nearly 130 billion pieces of U.S. Mail every year to over 160 million residential and business addresses across the United States. From March 2020 through February 2021, the USPIS received 299,020 mail theft complaints, which was an increase of 161% compared with the same period a year earlier.”

How do you do avoid this growing fraud? This is what the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) suggests:

  • Pick up Your Mail Promptly. Don’t leave it in your mailbox for days. Thieves often look for signs that someone is away.
  • Inquire About Overdue Mail. If you do not receive a check, credit card, or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the sender as soon as possible and inquire about it. Sometimes when “the check is in the mail” it hasn’t gotten to you.
  • Don’t Send Cash. Be careful about what you send. Don’t risk sending cash in the mail. It’s a bad idea because cash is easily spotted in an envelope.
  • Use ‘Hold for PickUp.’ When shipping packages, use the Hold for PickUp option, and the recipients can collect the package at your local Post Office.
  • Request Signature Confirmation. When mailing something important, consider requesting USPS Signature Confirmation for the intended recipient. I have used certified mail if I’m mailing something important.
  • File Change of Address. If you move, make sure you file a change of address with the Postal Service and let your financial institutions know as well.

In my check fraud case, the story had a satisfying ending. Local police called postal inspectors, who eventually caught the perpetrator.

Think you’ve been a mail theft victim? Report mail theft-related check fraud to the USPIS at 1-877-876-2455 to report the incident.

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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