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How We See It

Ken Hartley

Ken Hartley

April 13, 2012

Mail Theft and the Fraud that Follows
By: Ken Hartley, Security and Loss Prevention Officer

Every day in America, the United States Postal Service delivers 668 million pieces of mail.  The vast majority of it arrives intact and in the hands of the intended recipient.  However, there is a current trend throughout our country where thieves are targeting mail boxes to gain unlawful possession of your personal and financial information.  Stolen mail is the main resource that enables forgery, check counterfeiting, identity theft and an absolute “nightmare” for banking customers.

Stolen mail was prominently reported from rural residential customers that would leave outgoing mail for the postal carrier by putting the little red flag up on the box.  This not only alerted the carrier to stop, but gave the would-be thieves an advanced warning that the box contained outgoing mail.  The crooks are jokingly calling it the “stop and steal me flag.”

Aunt Maggie may be disappointed if her letter doesn’t arrive, but if the mail that was stolen instead contained a bill payment with one of your bank checks then it is a whole different story.  Now the thieves have your name, address, account number, bank routing number, a sample of your handwriting, and any other information placed in memo on the check.

This check can be “washed” or “bleached” to remove the intended payee and presented for cashing by the crook; or they can use check paper and a printer and make a fistful of counterfeit checks that could bear your name and account number.  Of course, when discovered, you can file a forgery affidavit with your bank and those funds will be returned to your account. However, that will not alleviate the likelihood of receiving numerous telephone calls from department stores, check verification companies, or bill collection agencies that assume it was you that wrote the checks that bore your identification.

Counterfeit checks are often presented along with letters promoting fake lotteries, secret shoppers, work-at-home, and a variety of other
financial scams.  

The rural mail boxes are not the only targets of these crooks.  Even the mail placed inside the blue postal drop boxes beside the Post Office is not safe from theft.  According to U.S. Postal Inspection Services, the current trend is for the thieves to use sticky mouse trap paper attached to the end of a flexible mini-blind to reach inside the drop box and stick to as much mail as possible.  They encourage citizens to watch for tell-tale signs of evidence such as glue residue on the opening lid of the drop box.

If you believe you have been a victim of mail theft, report it to your bank, the local police, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service immediately.

Thieves want your mail. Don't be a victim!


U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s reporting form:


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