When you drop your mail off at the post office, there’s a sense of trust that comes with it. You hope the US Postal Service will get your mail to its final destination in a timely manner without incident. But sometimes, crazy sh*t happens, like the following story.
One Southie resident dropped his mail in the mailbox outside of the post office on East Third Street. Included in his mail was a check made out to Eversource for $118.66. When he checked his bank statement via the Rockland Trust mobile app, he noticed a $5000 discrepancy in his checking account. The original check to Eversource had been altered, forged, and cashed for $5000 – made out to an unknown individual. Gheesh!
The resident when to the East Broadway branch of Rockland Trust to report the fraudulent check transaction and fill out the appropriate forms. The assistant manager assured him she would immediately send them to the bank fraud department. His next stop was to C-6 Boston Police Station on West Broadway, where he filed a BPD police report for check fraud. He then returned to the bank and gave a copy of the BPD incident report number.
After that, he went to the South Boston Post Office and tried to file a report with the postmaster. At first, he told the clerk behind the counter he’d like to speak with the postmaster directly. That unfortunately never happened due to the fact after waiting twenty minutes, the postmaster never came out of her office. The clerk then handed him a business card and told him to call the United States Postal Inspector’s Office phone number. On July, 19th, he called the number and filed a report over the phone and was given a service request number. As of Wednesday, July 26th, he has not heard back from the inspector’s office.
This is not the first case of the same fraudulent situation. In addition to this resident’s story, another South Boston woman experienced the same situation with a check put in the mailbox at the post office on East Third ended in $4500 missing from her checking account.
How is this happening?
It’s something called “check washing,” where criminals steal signed checks from postal boxes, then use nail polish remover to remove the dollar amount and the name of the “payee” or recipient. After that, they rewrite the checks for a new recipient and a much larger amount and then cash the check. Yikes!
Evidently, this practice is on the rise! Back in February, the following alert was issued.
So how are these criminals getting their hands on checks?
According to an article in the New York Times, criminals sell copies of washed checks online in addition to stolen or counterfeit master keys – aka arrow keys, that open Postal Service collection boxes. There have even been cases where letter carriers are robbed at gunpoint for these keys. There was a local case that you can read about it here.
Also, postal employees have been accused of stealing the checks themselves at sorting and distribution centers. They then recruit others to loot collection boxes or act as check cashers. It’s quite an elaborate scheme.
So, a word to the wise, if you’re still writing out paper checks, stop and pay your bills