USPS Inspection Service, police investigate string of mail thefts around Philadelphia

A USPS spokesperson told Action News the public should feel safe using the collection boxes.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Officials say someone has been stealing checks from mailboxes recently across Philadelphia in an attempt to cash them for much more.

For many, the United States Postal Service collection boxes are as familiar as they are blue.

Yet, some lately don't feel they can count on them.

"So, what do you do with your mail? It's just not fair. It's not fair," said one South Philadelphia woman who asked to remain anonymous.

She believes her mail was stolen from a mailbox on the corner of Schley and Lanvale streets.

Specifically, a $170 check meant for a health provider that a criminal attempted to cash for more than $8,500. She got word of the attempted fraud through her bank.

"So, I called my bank. They instantly canceled my checking account. As far as I know, it never got to my bank," she said.

The check was never cashed, but she soon learned she wasn't the only victim after sharing her story.

"Like a $40 check, I was paying a bill. They somehow got it out the mailbox, whitewashed it for $4,909," said another man.

The concern of stolen checks out mailboxes recently sparked a meeting among residents in the city's Packer Park neighborhood.

"We called police," neighbors said who now are working alongside the United States Postal Inspection Service to look into reports of stolen mail across the Philadelphia area.

A spokesperson for the agency told Action News the public should feel safe using the collection boxes.

As far as cutting down the potential of mail theft, officials said paying close attention to collection times can help prevent mail from sitting in boxes overnight when most criminals strike.

"If it's a bad, rainy, snow day, what do I do with my bills?" asked the woman.

For those, like our victim who cannot rely on online pay bill services, USPS recommends dropping off at the post office itself, at least when you can.

"It's not that I want to be in the limelight. I feel that, like me, I want to get this situation cleared up," she said.

USPS officials said it's great if a bank can stop the check before it's cashed, but if they are never notified a potential crime occurred, they won't be able to investigate.

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