Stolen, altered checks cause money order mess for NYC senior

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Saturday, June 17, 2023
Stolen, altered checks cause money order mess for NYC senior
7 On Your Side helps a woman on the edge of big financial problems clean up a money order mess involving the U.S. Postal Service.

FLUSHING, Queens (WABC) -- It was the ultimate money-order mess for a woman from Queens.

Katherine Barate sent her rent in the form of postal money orders to her landlord last fall.

But the checks were never delivered.

Instead, someone stole them out of the mail and altered them. They were then cashed by a clerk at the post office.

But after this obvious fraud took place, the U.S. Postal Service refused to replace the stolen checks.

So Katherine turned to 7 On Your Side.

"They scribbled over what I wrote," she told us, showing us the altered check.

The thieves didn't even try to wash or white out the name on the check they stole out of the mail.

The criminal just took a pen and wrote right over the money orders that were printed out for Katherine's landlord.

"They marked over the whole thing and rewrote someone else's name," Katherine said.

What's even worse, on closer look, we discovered her two money orders, obviously tampered with, were then apparently cashed by the USPS at the post office in Elmhurst.

The clerk wrote down the scammer's passport number as ID, and handed over $1,000, which was supposed to be for Katherine's rent.

"First, I found that they never received it, then I found out from the tracking that they were never delivered," she told us. "Then I found out the storage box had been broken into and all the mail had been stolen."

The postal service informed customers that its green storage relay box in Forest Hills had been broken into.

All the mail was stolen, including Katherine's checks - the same checks that were fraudulently cashed.

Katherine thought with the USPS theft and the flagrant fraud on the money orders, which she had mailed certified and trackable, it would be easy to get reimbursed.

But both her claims were denied. She was told no replacement check would be issued.

"I went back and forth with them a few times, and all I got was, 'We can't help you because the money orders were cashed,'" she said.

The Flushing senior is living on a fixed income. She had put her landlord on hold for the missing rent since last year.

"I can't suddenly pull out an extra payment to give them an additional payment out of thin air, so I need to be reimbursed," she said.

So she finally sent a letter to 7 On Your Side.

"You get things done, and you get results," she explained.

We asked the United States Postal Inspector to revisit Katherine's case.

The agency issued a statement saying, "After reviewing the information presented by ABC 7 On Your Side, the USPS customer's complaint was reevaluated, and a full reimbursement will be issued."

And she received a replacement order, pronto!

"These are my checks," she said, relieved. "Thank you, 7 On Your Side!"

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