Mail theft can lead to check fraud

Published 8:00 am Saturday, December 3, 2022

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Scams aren’t always a high-tech project. In fact, some of the most common are about as old fashioned as they come. The Virginia chapter of AARP issued a warning on Tuesday of one that could affect thousands of residents in Lunenburg County and it all relates to the mail.

In 2021, there were 33,000 reports of incidents involving mail carrier robberies and mail theft. That’s up from 24,000 in 2019, according to the U.S. Postal Inspectors. What were the thieves looking for? Personal checks that can be washed and rewritten to anyone for any amount.

The simplest way for criminals to find mail to steal is to look for mailboxes with a raised flag, which often contain bill payments with personal checks included. Another way is for criminals to steal a master key that opens the blue boxes from a postal worker.

These “arrow keys” sell for between $5,000 and $10,000 on the black market. Once they have a personal check, thieves can “wash” the ink off with household chemicals and fill it out to a new recipient for whatever amount they wish.

To protect yourself, deposit any mail containing checks, cash or sensitive personal information in collection boxes as close to the indicated pickup time as possible — or better yet – bring them inside the post office for mailing.