What is Mailbox Fishing?
That royal blue US Postal Service Mailbox may not be the best way for you to mail your bills. It has been reported that checks are being intercepted, altered and cashed after they were placed in envelopes and dropped into a nearby USPS collection box.
Most of these bandits were found to be employing a tactic known as mailbox fishing, in which they use handmade tools to pluck envelopes out of the collection boxes. The “fishing rod” generally consists of a string tied to a sticky rodent trap or bottle slathered in glue. The “fishing line” is dropped down into the box’s pulldown lid, then pulled back up through the opening along with the mail. The thieves then open the mail looking for checks that people innocently mailed to pay their car payment, mortgage, utility bill, etc. They will then wash the ink off the checks using common household cleaning products, write a new payee and amount to whomever and for whatever amount they want.
The US Postal Service is aware of the problem and has rolled out new boxes in many cities. Gone are the pulldown lids exploited by the thieves. They have been replaced by a tiny opening just large enough to fit an envelope. Of course these boxes have not been rolled out nation-wide and many rural communities still have the older boxes including, in all likelihood, the boxes in your community.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Whenever possible, pay your bills online through automatic payments or Bill Pay.
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- If you need to mail a check, bring it to your local post office and drop it off inside the facility.
- If you can not make it to the post office, use the US Postal Service mailbox in the morning. Mailbox Fishing is more likely to occur at night after the last mail pick-up for the day.
- Monitor your bank account transactions through Online Banking, Mobile Banking and monthly bank statements to verify your payments are cashed by the intended payee.
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