Red flag: Mail theft in Delaware

January 15, 2008 4:35:39 PM PST
The problem of mail theft isn't exactly new, but the speed at which mail thieves can operate is.A red flag went up in Jean Ciecko's mind, just like the red flag she put up on her mailbox last month, only to realize a bill she put inside the box was gone long before her mailman had come to her North Wilmington neighborhood.

Ciecko immediately went to her computer and discovered she was a victim of mail theft.

"There were two checks that cleared my account that day, one for $300 dollars, another for $350. When I noticed the numbers on the check, and I looked at my checkbook, I still had those checks," Ciecko said.

Ciecko rushed to a nearby Fairfax bank only to learn that within five hours someone used her stolen check to make a bogus check of their own.

"It doesn't look anything like my check. It had a design on it that my checks didn't have, yet it had my name and address and all my account numbers on it," Ciecko said.

The bank refunded all of Ciecko's money, but she is well aware of the danger.

"I think there are still people who don't realize it until they get their statements. I just happened to check that day," Ciecko said.

An investigation by the US Postal Service revealed there are more people like Ciecko in Delaware and surrounding areas. Since last November, thieves have been targeting neighborhoods looking for mailboxes with red flags up so they can steal personal information; this is a felony that could mean five years for every piece of stolen mail.

"The theft of mail is a very serious penalty. It is a federal offense. The individuals who perpetrate this type of act need to know that and we will be looking for them," Postal Service Inspector Oriey Glenn said.