Yonkers mayor, police ask Postal Service to help combat mailbox theft

YONKERS, Westchester County (WABC) -- The mayor of Yonkers is asking the United States Postal Service to hlep combat a rash of mailbox thefts throughout the city.

Mayor Mike Spano says the postal service should have taken action after the first incident was reported months ago. "The federal government had the obligation to protect the integrity of the US mail," says Spano. "They did not do that. They failed in their job."

So far this year, thieves have withdrawn more than $600,000 from at least 85 checks stolen from Yonkers residents. Police say checks are usually "washed" and illegally redeposited.

Meanwhile police in Bronxville are also warning residents about mail theft. "Mail deposited in mailboxes in the village as well as mail deposited in the mail slot in the lobby of the Bronxville Post Office has been stolen," writes Chief Christopher Satriale in an email to residents. "Stolen checks have been altered, deposited and funds withdrawn against the deposited checks."

Also Wednesday, Bronxville police announced that a seven-week investigation has led to the arrest of eight people on charges of mail theft and bank fraud.

Investigators learned that checks stolen from the mail were being deposited into bank accounts opened with fraudulent documents, and subsequently withdrawals were being made from the accounts.

To prevent identity theft police suggest:

--Do not mail any negotiable items (check, gift card, cash, etc.). Utilize online banking to send checks. If you must send checks in the mail use a gel pen to write out the check and sign it. Ball point pen ink can easily be washed off a check. Bring the checks to the Post Office counter and record the name of the postal employee to whom you are handing them to.

--Pay as many bills on line as you can. On line payments are more secure than payments made via the mail.

--Use plain white envelopes if you must mail a check. Do not use return envelopes with the utility logo or municipality for tax payments on them. These are easy targets for the thieves.

--Check bank activity on line and review bank statements as soon as they are received for discrepancies.

--Report suspicious activity near mailboxes by calling 911.

--If you have been the victim of mail theft contact the United States Postal Inspectors Service at 877-876-2455 option #4.

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