mail theft

‘Fishing in the Mailboxes': Stolen Check Altered, Cashed for $5,000

Mail thefts are up more than 150% since the start of 2022, officials say

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After a Maryland man had a check stolen from the mail, it initially cost him and his wife several thousand dollars. He’s crediting his congressman with helping to bring attention to his case.

Mail thefts are skyrocketing across the United States. They've increased more than 150% since the start of 2022, officials said.

A couple from Bethesda, Maryland, had one of their checks stolen from a blue mailbox. It was then altered and cashed for nearly $5,000.

"Our checks have been stolen from the mailbox, reproduced with different names and different amounts," Steve Rosenthal said.

The couple was able to close their account and eventually resolve the issue.

At first, Rosenthal was frustrated that police and the bank didn’t show interest in investigating. But after reaching out to his congressman, Rep. Jamie Raskin, he was able to get the attention of U.S. Postal Service inspectors.

"It worked out. With a great deal of inconvenience. It took the bank over two months to send us our money," Rosenthal said.

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Here in the D.C. metro area, letter carriers have been robbed at gunpoint, and sometimes their valuable "arrow keys" are taken, giving thieves full access to people's mail in the blue boxes.

News4 has documented more than a dozen armed robberies of letter carriers in the region.

A map shows more than a dozen armed robberies of letter carriers in the D.C. area over the past few months, including in McLean on May 23, Chevy Chase on May 25, Bethesda on June 9 and July 7, Lanham on June 29, Takoma Park on June 30, and both the District and Wheaton on July 1.
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A map shows more than a dozen armed robberies of letter carriers in the D.C. area over the past few months, including in McLean on May 23, Chevy Chase on May 25, Bethesda on June 9 and July 7, Lanham on June 29, Takoma Park on June 30, and both the District and Wheaton on July 1.

Despite a recent indictment of four people in an elaborate scheme to steal personal checks, the crimes keep happening.

Raskin calls it a crisis.

"These criminals have been fishing in the mailboxes, kind of with these makeshift fishing poles that they've created to stab the mail and pull it out," he said.

Raskin says the thieves need to know that law enforcement is on the lookout for these crimes, and anyone caught will be prosecuted and face substantial jail time.

"We know the boxes are being targeted," Raskin said. "The criminals who are doing this have got to be aware that they’re being watched. Just like they’re watching the boxes, we’re watching them watch the mailboxes."

Rosenthal was pleased to see the local indictments.

As a result of his experience, he and his wife now use online banking as much as possible, and if they need to mail a check, they take it directly to the post office.

"It's a shame, but as best as we can figure, mailboxes aren't the same as when we grew up," Rosenthal said. "You can’t count on 'em."

Raskin said it’s important for anyone who sees someone tampering with a mailbox to report it immediately.

The Postal Service has said it is prioritizing investigations into stolen checks.

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