As your trusted financial institution, we encourage you to be extra mindful of the checks and bill payments you are placing in your mailbox to be collected by the mail service. An age-old crime is recirculating — scammers and thieves are targeting mailboxes to steal mail and checks from hard-working individuals.

Police departments nationwide have issued warnings to households to take a few extra moments and consider if there is another way to make the bill payment that might not involve placing a check in the mail. What seems like a common-place and innocent action on your part to mail in a payment has turned into a goldmine for scammers.

How Does It Work?

Thieves are swiping mailed checks and money orders from personal mailboxes, washing them with household products, and rewriting the checks. Typically, the checks are rewritten into the thief’s name and for a much a larger sum of money than what the original check was written for.

What Are They Doing With My Checks?

SCENARIO: You write a check for your power bill for $74.32 and place it in your mailbox. Shortly after you drop the mail, a thief comes by and swipes all items from your mailbox unbeknownst to you. The thief will open your mail, throw away or discard of the items they cannot use, and keep bill payments, money orders, and checks for themselves.

Within moments, your $74.32 check made out to the power company will be washed to remove the filled in Pay To The Order Of line, as well as the original amount of the check. Once dried, the check will be rewritten (they typically make the check out to themselves) and the amount of the check will likely be adjusted to reflect a much larger sum of money. The scammer didn’t remove your signature line, so therefore they now have a check made out to themselves for much more money than the original power bill you dropped in the mail. And, if you had additional checks in the mail, they would hold onto those to wash and use later.

Then What?

In most cases, the thief will take the altered check to your financial institution and attempt to cash it. Your $74.32 power bill payment could easily cost you thousands of dollars to a thief and leave your power bill unpaid.

DID YOU KNOW: US Community Credit Union employees are trained to inspect checks presented for payment for this very reason? If we identify a check that seems suspicious, we will contact the member directly and verify the validity of the check. Over the past few weeks, we have discovered numerous checks presented for payment that were washed and altered by mail thieves!

So What Can You Do?

Dropping mail in locked or protected mail bins seems like a good solution, but authorities warn those are being heavily targeted as well. Your best option is to visit the local post office and hand your payments to the clerk. But we know that extra trip isn’t convenient for most. Utilizing US Community Credit Union’s bill payment service is another great way to ensure your bills are paid on-time, in full, and without threats of theft. This service is quick, easy, and free*, and can be done directly through online banking or the credit union app. You can also set up automatic payments through a US Community Credit Union credit card – this will grant you all the securities and safeguards of a credit card while ensuring your payments are made on-time, and in full.

Ask US how we can help. And don’t forget, if you think you have been a victim of mail theft, contact US immediately, and report to the authorities.

*Bill Pay is fee free when utilizing standard delivery. An additional fee made be incurred when utilizing the expedited delivery options. See the Truth-In-Savings Disclosure for terms and conditions.