PEEKSKILL, New York (WABC) -- Peekskill residents are being told to avoid using post office curbside boxes to mail checks due to a recent pattern of thefts.
The Peekskill Police Department believes someone is stealing mail containing checks from a drop-off point outside of the post office at 738 South Street.
The department received several reports of checks stolen from this location being used for identity theft or financial fraud.
Residents are asked to either walk their mail inside the post office on South Street or use a different location to send any mail containing checks or other financial documents.
None of it is surprising to Edward Marrero.
"It happens all of the time, we've literally mailed things like bills, things like that, and you know what? It's never gotten there," Marrero said. "And we've voided the bill and they're like, we never got it."
Elena Matheson said several thousand dollars vaporized from her bank account in August after she and her husband paid two bills and dropped them in the mail.
"What happens is I guess they get a hold of the check, and with the ink, they are able to 'wash' the amount and the 'payable to' and that's how they get into your account," Matheson said.
Matheson's bank reimbursed her account and launched its own investigation, but the disruption to her life became a major hassle.
"Every time I pay a bill now, I have to change the routing number and I have to change the account number of our accounts," she said. "And we've had to contact people that we do direct pay with."
Peekskill residents are not the only ones being targeted.
Several police departments across Westchester County have received similar reports of mailbox theft involving checks and other financial paperwork.
Curbside post office boxes have been broken into by force or with a stolen key, according to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office.
There have also been reports of the mailboxes being stolen from the street and thieves using fishing techniques to take mail out of the boxes.
The United States Postal Inspection Service offers the following tips to protect your mail from thieves:
--Use the letter slots inside your Post Office for your mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.
--Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don't leave it in your mailbox overnight. If you're expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
--If you don't receive a check or other valuable mail you're expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
--If you change your address, immediately notify your Post Office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
--Don't send cash in the mail.
--Tell your Post Office when you'll be out of town, so they can hold your mail until you return.
--Report all suspected mail theft to a Postal Inspector.
--Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes (as well as homes).
--Consult with your local Postmaster for the most up-to-date regulations on mailboxes, including the availability of locked centralized or curbside mailboxes.
--Sign-up for Informed Delivery at USPS.com. This service provides daily email notifications of incoming mail and packages.
If you see a mail thief at work, or if you believe your mail was stolen, call police immediately, then call Postal Inspectors at 1-877-876-2455.
You can also report glue, tapes or other sticky substances on the mailbox to your local Post Office and to Postal Inspectors. Call the New York Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 212-330-2400.
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