GLASTONBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Another town is warning residents about a check washing scam. Thieves are stealing checks out of mailboxes, altering them, and stealing money right from people’s bank accounts.
Glastonbury is the latest town to have thieves hitting mailboxes, and in three different locations.
“We’ve received complaints of at least 70 checks that have been altered from these three mailboxes to the tune of $235,000 since Dec. 1,” Lt. Corey Davis, the public information officer of the Glastonbury Police Department, said.
Seventy times someone wrote a check to their phone or gas company only to find a different name on their bank records.
“They’re popping up elsewhere in the country, being cashed by people who are able to change the name on the check and the amount on the check,” Davis explained.
It’s an old counterfeiting scam, according to Robert McDonald, a former secret service agent who is now lecturing at the University of New Haven.
“You know, this is very similar to what is called note bleaching in the federal government with counterfeit money,” McDonald said. “People will take a $1 bill and chemically take off the ink and then print a larger bill onto that previous $1 bill.”
What the U.S. Postal Service has done to try to combat this trend is move away from the older mailboxes with the large chute for the mail. Instead, they are using a different, smaller opening into which one can barely fit an envelope or two. It is much harder to get the mail out of the newer models, but somehow the thieves continue to do it.
Last week, West Hartford police received similar complaints at its post office. Before that, it was Coventry police. Canton and Avon said they are seeing the issue, too.
“As long as we have checks coming to us and going out from us, I think this will always be out there,” McDonald said.
Experts said if you are mailing a check, skip the outside mailbox, and go inside the post office to drop it off. Or, pay your bills online if you can.
If you think you may be a victim of mail theft, visit these sites:
- Mail Theft | USPIS
- Internal Mail Theft | USPS Office of Inspector General
- File a mail theft complaint by calling 888-USPS-OIG, or visiting File an Online Complaint | USPS Office of Inspector General