Police and Postal Service advise residents to take precautions against mail theft

The Philadelphia Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspectors are investigating several reports of checks being stolen from a mailbox on the unit block of Gravers Lane in Chestnut Hill. Police reported finding open envelopes on the ground near the mailbox with included checks missing. The people who had placed the mail were notified by police that their checks had been stolen.

One Chestnut Hill businessperson, who asked not to be named, told the Local that the mailbox on Gravers Lane had been full at times, leaving some mail sticking out of the slot and there for the taking.

The 14th District Police Department issued an alert on its Twitter account last week, warning residents that stolen mail provides thieves with personal information that can be used for identity theft. The alert also warned residents of a process called “washing” checks that mail thieves use to alter stolen checks. The thieves use ink-removing chemicals to make the check blank which allows them to rewrite the check out to themselves, the police said.

The Philadelphia Police Department recommended that residents take the following precautions to protect their mail:

• Use the letter slots inside your Post Office for your mail, or hand deliver it to a letter carrier.

• If you must send a check in the mail, use a gel pen to write checks, as ballpoint pen ink can easily be washed off a check.

• Use plain white envelopes to mail checks. Avoid provided return envelopes with company names, as these tend to be easy targets.

• Refrain from sending cash or sensitive information in the mail if possible.

• Monitor bank activity online and review bank statements.

Reginald L. Wade, a public information officer at the United States Postal Service, said there are approximately 1,600 blue postal collection boxes in Philadelphia in the 190-191 zip code area.

“The safety and security of the mail, of our employees and of our customers is our top priority,” he said. “We handle hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail daily. Unfortunately, every now and then some do go missing, and we follow up on those cases. Every single one of those, we investigate, follow up on and apprehend the individuals responsible for not allowing that mail to reach their destination.”

He added that they are implementing prevention efforts at securing the mail.

To contact the 14th District Philadelphia Police Department, call (215) 686-3140.