Crime News

Police warn of thefts of checks from Postal Service mailboxes in Addison County

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury police are asking residents to avoid using U.S. Postal Service blue collection boxes to mail critical mail and financial documents such as checks after a series of incidents in Middlebury and East Middlebury, where checks were stolen from these collection boxes and cashed.

In a Dec. 14 advisory, Middlebury Chief of Police Tom Hanley wrote that during these incidents, individuals have been searching through USPS collection boxes for mail that contains a check, using a weighted device coated with in sticky substance to retrieve the mail from the collection box.

Once perpetrators find the checks, they use a chemical to treat the ink on the checks, covering the name of the person who is to be paid and the amount. Individuals are then able to cash the checks before the payee realizes their check has been diverted.

Another common practice is to sell the altered check on the dark web, or in another part of the country, according to the Vermont Bankers Association.

Hanley encouraged residents who have recently dropped a check into one of these blue collection boxes to confirm with the intended recipient that they’ve received the check.

“Tis the season for fraud. Be careful. Protect your financial transactions and personal information,” he wrote.

Hanley’s warning comes as the Vermont Bankers Association on Wednesday announced that the banking community is seeing an increase in check fraud across the state. It attributed the fraud cases at least in part to checks being stolen out of blue USPS mailboxes.

To minimize stolen check fraud, the banking industry suggests you take the following precautions:

  • Use a pen with indelible black gel ink that can’t be erased.
  • Deposit mail with checks inside the post office, not in outdoor blue mailboxes.
  • If you choose to leave outgoing mail in your mailbox, don’t put up the flag.
  • Grab incoming mail right away.
  • Deposit mail with checks just before a mailbox’s last pickup.
  • Pay your bills online.
  • Keep an eye on your bank accounts for potential fraud, and report suspicious activity as soon as possible.

Anyone who believe their check was stolen out of the mail can report the crime to the Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455.

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