Dropping a Check or Cash in the Mail? You Might Want to Avoid Those Blue USPS Boxes

Thieves often steal checks from the mail then do what's called check washing - using the check and bank account information to create fraudulent checks they then deposit

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Thieves are targeting the big blue United State Postal Service mailboxes in at least two Massachusetts towns, and if you've mailed a check in one of them, your bank account information could be compromised.

On Monday, Needham police warned that they were investigating reports of potential mail thefts from boxes in their town. Then on Tuesday, Wellesley police warned that thieves may have secured the keys to boxes in their town.



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Thieves often steal checks from the mail then do what's called check washing - using the check and bank account information to create fraudulent checks they then deposit. In some cases, physical checks may actually be washed in chemicals to remove the ink so they can be altered. Sometimes thieves will also sell the bank account information online.

If you think you may be the victim of mail theft or check washing, contact your financial institution. You should also make a report to police and the USPS.

Police urge residents to go directly to the post office and send mail from inside the building.

Needham resident Myra Anderson said she’s been a victim of mail theft, which turned into bank fraud.

“It was a couple of years ago actually,” she said.

Like many often do, she sent a check through the mail to pay a bill, but that check never made it to its intended recipient.

“It was a couple of weeks later when I was checking my bank account that I saw ‘wow’ it was unusually low,” said Anderson.

A check made out for $400 dollars to a caterer was stolen from a mailbox in Boston and then forged to more than $4,000.

“I don’t remember writing that so I looked at it – in online banking you can see a picture of the check – and it was made out to some random person and had clearly been tampered with,” she said.

Police across eastern Massachusetts have noticed the blue postal service collection bins become a hot item for thieves this holiday season.

Wellesley police alone has about a dozen open cases.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve received an influx in mail theft fraud-related crime reports,” said Wellesley Police Officer Mike Pino.

The issue isn’t just that someone can gain access to the blue bins and steal mail, but also access the information inside envelopes including a person’s name, address, signature and even banking details.

“That stuff is what we’ve found as being used by third-party websites and being sold online for a price,” noted Pino.

Pino said checks are often washed and cashed. Details scrubbed and extra zeros added to make a few dozen dollars look like a few thousand. 

“Monitor your bank account every few days or so if you have sent something through the mail,” suggested Pino.

Wellesley police said they are working with other agencies on the case. The investigation is ongoing.

Postal inspectors warn those stealing mail they could face fines and up to five years in jail.

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