The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing an increase in robberies of mail carriers and in-mail theft, both of which are contributing to a rise in check fraud.
Mail thefts, including those from Postal Service collection boxes, increased from 38,500 in fiscal year 2022 to more than 25,000 in the first half of fiscal year 2023. More than 300 mail carriers were robbed from October 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023.
Thieves steal mail for various reasons. They may be looking for credit or debit cards or potential identity theft information. If they steal mail to find checks, they often attempt to wash them with chemicals to remove handwritten ink and replace it with different names and amounts.
The following are some of the ways thieves steal mail, in addition to armed robbery of mail carriers:
- Glue Traps: Thieves use sticky substance on the door of the mailbox to catch mail, which they often return to get at night.
- Mailbox Fishing: Another method involved lowering strings with something attached on the end to trap and gather the mail.
Actually, the use of checks has declined. Americans wrote roughly 3.4 billion checks in 2022, down from nearly 19 billion in 1990. Despite the declined use of checks in the United States, criminals have increasingly targeted the U.S. mail to commit check fraud. The U.S. Postal Service is developing plans to address this increasing problem. Included in these crime prevention plans are the following:
More secure collection boxes. The US Postal Service plans to deploy 12,000 high security collection boxes, making it more difficult for them to be broken into.
Electronic locks. The US. Postal Service is replacing 49,000 older locks using mechanical keys with electronic locks. According to USPS, thieves have robbed letter carriers for the keys to steal mail from secure mail receptacles.
The US Postal Service has offered a number of suggestions to help prevent mail theft and harm to letter carriers:
- Don’t let mail sit in your mailbox. Retrieve it daily.
- Don’t drop mail into a collection box at night. Take it to a post office.
- You can sign up for Informed Delivery through USPS and you will receive an email preview of what mail and packages are coming.
- If you are going out of town, sign up to have your mail held at the post office.
- Watch for your mail carrier. If you have something that looks suspicious or someone following them, call 911.
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