Before you mail out any bank checks — whether to pay your utility bill or to give as a birthday present — authorities are urging people to be cautious.
Police departments across eastern Massachusetts are warning residents about mailbox fishing, the process of stealing mail from residential mailboxes or even from the blue postal service collection boxes in search of checks.
“We strongly recommend you don’t mail out any checks from your residential mailbox,” said Burlington Police Lieutenant Detective Michael McDade.
Stolen checks are “washed” by erasing the ink and changing the date, name of recipient and dollar amount.
“It’s just blatant,” noted a Burlington resident named Peter. “You can see the other writing underneath it.”
Peter asked NBC10 Boston to use only his first name out of concern for his privacy. He’s a recent victim of mailbox fishing. In late June, he placed a check in his mailbox to pay a bill. Instead, the money went to someone else.
“They changed the dollar amount from $399 to $7,500,” he said.
He says the check was deposited at an ATM — machines typically can’t tell if a check has been washed.
Similar stories have been recently reported in Mattapoisett, Barnstable, Sandwich and Needham.
“My wife had me drive two miles from my home to the post office to put them in there,” said McDade.
In addition to mailing out checks in person at the post office, McDade suggested reviewing your bank transactions after sending a check in the mail.
“You know, some of the banks may only reimburse funds that were lost, or the fraud was reported to the bank within 30 days,” said McDade.
“You cannot use your mailbox. Totally unsafe,” said Peter.