Mail fishing is an easy low-tech type of crime. Thieves don’t need any special skill level to retrieve someone’s mail in an accessible public mailbox. According to law enforcement officials, public mailboxes are increasingly a target for criminals.
There’s a treasure trove of goodies in any public mailbox. Think of the many millions of gift cards, cash in greeting cards, rent checks, money orders, bill payments, etc., we mail every day. Most people either place their mail in their own ‘unlocked’ personal mailbox or use the blue postal mailboxes in their neighborhood. This puts their mail in danger of mail fishing.
HOW IS MAIL FISHING DONE?
Thieves are using tools like sticky traps – used to catch rodents – attached to the end of a string, to retrieve envelopes placed in postal mailboxes. Using this method, a thief can easily pull up to 20 envelopes at a time this way. OR a thief can easily grab your outgoing mail from your unlocked personal mailbox outside your own home.
CHECK WASHING MAY COME NEXT!
Your checking account could be in danger of getting cleaned out if a mailbox thief gets a hold of one of your checks. Once a thief gets their hands on someone else’s check, they will ‘wash’ the ink from that check with chemicals. Once the check is washed, the criminal now has a blank check, with your account information. They will make the check payable to whomever they wish and for whatever amount they want. If that check clears your bank, your money will have been stolen. Additionally, if there wasn’t enough money in your checking account, you will also incur overdraft fees.
HERE’S HOW TO KEEP YOUR MAIL SAFE
To avoid ‘check washing’ write your checks out using a type of ink that won’t wash away. Purchase a Uni-Ball brand # 207 gel pen for writing your checks from now on.
If using a postal mailbox, place your bills before the last collection time. This will prevent your mail from sitting in the mailbox overnight. Most mail fishing is done after dark.
Place your mail inside the actual post office. Walk inside and drop it in the post office outgoing mail bin.
Never put outgoing bills in your own personal mailbox, unless it’s a locked/secure mailbox. Also, never raise your mailbox flag, as this will bring attention to would-be mail thieves.
Consider using post office ‘tracking’ when mailing important or large checks.
Don’t keep large sums of money in your checking account and monitor your checking account balance frequently to make sure your checks have cleared. Contact your bank immediately if something is amiss.
Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 if you see something suspicious. Mail theft is a federal crime, punishable for up to five years in prison.
Post offices are beginning to either replace or retrofit mailboxes to make them fishing resistant. In the meantime, be vigilant.