25 Investigates: Mail stolen from collection box outside local post office

NEEDHAM, Mass. — 25 Investigates has learned that Needham Police are investigating mail theft from a blue collection box located right outside the US Post Office on Great Plain Ave.  Several people who mailed checks from the box in late August have already reported check fraud.

A Needham woman, who asked not to be identified told Investigative Reporter Ted Daniel that five of the seven checks she dropped in the box on August 28th  were washed and cashed. 

Check washing is a process that involves changing the name of the payee and often the dollar amount. She said she was left with $30,000 in unauthorized debits on her Bank of America checking account.

She showed us a copy of one of the altered checks.  It was made out to a “Breyanna Stanley” for $9875.83. Her online banking history shows checks for $6859.84 and $4685.94 cleared her account right after.

Two other Needham residents have reported check fraud since the collection box was targeted.

“We will likely get more incidents of check fraud reported in the near future as people are now noticing the fraudulent check activity in their accounts from a theft from the Mailbox in late August,” Needham Deputy Police Chief Chris Baker wrote in an email.

25 Investigates found 3 stolen checks from the Needham mailbox theft for sale on the messaging app Telegram. They were being offered for $85 apiece. We shared our find with Needham Police. In July, we reported that Telegram is one of several sites where checks stolen from the mail are sold.

Incidents of mail theft have exploded all over the country.

Georgia State University Criminologist David Maimon and his team of graduate students at the Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group track the lucrative stolen check market.

“They take pictures, upload them on platforms and upload them for sale,”  Maimon said.  “It’s not a group of adolescents stealing your mail we’re talking organized crime groups who at the end of the day know exactly what they’re doing.”

On Thursday, Maimon told 25 Investigates his group has recently logged an increase in the volume of stolen checks from Arlington, Watertown, and Cambridge.

Needham Police said the collection box theft is under investigation.    The department provided these tips to limit exposure to mail theft:

•             Promptly pick up mail- Try not to leave letters and packages in your mailbox or at your door for any length of time.

•             Use third-party shipping stores: Send mail and packages from their counter.

•             Be careful about what you send. Don’t risk sending cash in the mail

•             Arrange for prompt pick-up:  If you cannot be home to receive a package, make another arrangement or use the USPS Hold Mail Service.

•             Use Hold for Pickup: When shipping packages, use the Hold for Pickup option, and the recipients can collect the package at their local Post Office

•             Inquire about overdue mail-: If you do not receive a check, credit card, or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the sender as soon as possible and inquire about it.

•             Check Your Bank Accounts: Check your account for cleared checks. Check the amounts and the pay to the area for accuracy. Also, check the back o the checks if you have access to the image.

•             Report theft:  Report the theft or suspicious activity as quickly as possible.

•             Use the Counter:  Go into your local post office. Use the slots inside or drop them at the counter.

•             Well Lit and Surveillance Camera: Use mailboxes that are well lit with the presence of a surveillance camera

•             Know Pick-Up Times:  Deposit mail close to pick-up times for mailbox use.

•             Use Online Banking: Make payments using online banking.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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