Avoid Mailing Checks: USPS Warns of Increased Mail Theft.
June 27, 2023: Experts caution against sending checks through the mail due to a surge in crimes targeting the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS has reported a rise in attacks on letter carriers and incidents of mail fraud, with 305 mail carriers robbed in the first half of fiscal year 2023. This number is on track to surpass the previous year’s 412 robberies. At the same time, fraudsters target mailboxes, stealing letters from residents’ homes or USPS collection boxes.
The increased crime puts mailed checks at a higher risk of theft, as evidenced by documented incidents nationwide. For example, a criminal ring was recently broken up after a string of thefts from blue collection boxes in Milwaukee. The suspects allegedly used stolen “arrow keys,” universal USPS keys that can open mail collection boxes. They pilfered over 900 checks, according to a criminal complaint.
To address the theft issues, USPS advises Americans to avoid depositing mail in blue collection boxes or leaving it in their mailboxes for pickup. Instead, the agency now recommends that patrons bring their mail inside their local post office for secure sending. Experts agree with this advisory, suggesting that individuals only mail checks at the post office to ensure greater security.
Caitlin Driscoll of the Better Business Bureau emphasizes the importance of using a secure mail drop inside a post office rather than an unsecured public-facing mailbox when mailing a check. This provides an extra layer of protection against theft.
According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the rise in mail theft is part of a broader national trend of increased crime patterns. In 2021, they received approximately 300,000 complaints about mail theft, more than double the previous year’s total. Criminals target mail carriers, steal deliveries, use arrow keys to access postal boxes and steal letters, checks, and other valuables.
In response, the USPS advises people to avoid allowing incoming or outgoing mail to sit in their mailboxes for extended periods. They recommend removing mail from mailboxes daily to reduce the chances of becoming a victim. Additionally, the agency suggests posting mail inside local post offices or workplaces or handing it to mail carriers. However, the USPS has yet to issue specific guidance on mailing checks.
If a check is stolen, it can be subjected to a technique known as “check washing.” This involves using chemicals to erase the writing on the check, including the recipient’s name and the amount. Once the check is blank, the thieves can fill in new information, potentially leading to significant financial loss for the check owner. Real-life cases have shown checks being cashed for much higher amounts than originally intended, resulting in substantial losses for victims. To prevent such incidents, it is crucial to protect checks and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
To summarize, due to increased crimes targeting the U.S. Postal Service, experts advise against mailing checks. The USPS has seen a rise in attacks on letter carriers and incidents of mail fraud, heightening the risk of mailed checks being stolen. It is recommended to use secure mail drops inside.