05/15/2023: The Rising Tide of Mail Theft and Check Fraud

The Rising Tide of Mail Theft and Check Fraud

Mail theft is not a new problem. However, it has become more complex in recent years. This has caused postal services around the world to be worried.

The digital revolution has had little effect on the value and volume of physical mail. In fact, traditional mail remains significant. This has revealed a weak spot that fraudsters can take advantage of. As a result, mail theft and check fraud have risen significantly.

Mail theft, in its simplest form, involves stealing mail directly from mailboxes or postal trucks. In recent times, however, criminals have turned to more sophisticated methods. For instance, some are employing ‘fishing’ tactics, using devices to pull out mail from collection boxes. Others are focusing on intercepting mail in transit, or even resorting to identity theft to reroute mail to different addresses.

However, the real nightmare begins when these mail thefts lead to check fraud. Fraudsters steal checks from the mail.

They then alter the recipient’s name, change the check amount, or use the account and routing number to create counterfeit checks. Crime of this type has a wide-reaching effect on society. It causes financial losses for individuals and businesses, and it erodes trust in the postal system.

Check fraud, in particular, has seen an alarming surge. According to recent statistics, losses due to check fraud in the United States alone are over a staggering $18 billion.

Technology is now readily available, making it easier to create counterfeit checks.

Additionally, checks remain a popular payment method. This has resulted in an increase in fake check use.

The robustness of the postal system is being tested as it grapples with this growing problem. Postal services must invest more in security. This includes improved mailbox designs to prevent “fishing,” increased surveillance, and better training for postal employees to recognize suspicious activities. Simultaneously, they are working closely with law enforcement agencies to track and prosecute those responsible for these crimes.

However, addressing this issue is not only the responsibility of postal services and law enforcement. Banks and other financial institutions also play a crucial role. They are on the front lines when it comes to detecting and preventing check fraud. This involves enhancing their security protocols, employing advanced check verification systems, and educating customers about the risks.

As we move into the digital era, it is a reminder that traditional forms of crime can evolve and adapt. Mail theft and check fraud are examples of this. It is essential that banks, consumers, and law enforcement all work together to combat check fraud.

Consumers should be careful with their mail and stay vigilant about their accounts. Law enforcement should collaborate with banks and other financial institutions to identify and prosecute criminals.

By working together, we can protect ourselves and our financial assets from mail theft and check fraud. problem that requires a concerted effort from postal services, law enforcement, financial institutions, and consumers.

The current situation is difficult. However, there is a positive side.

People are becoming more aware of this issue. This awareness is creating opportunities to develop better strategies to solve it. In the end, the key to tackling this problem lies in a combination of vigilance, technological advancement, and collaborative efforts.

We are working together to combat this threat. Our aim is to restore the safety and integrity of our postal system. This will enable it to remain a vital connection in our society.

Staying ahead of criminals is essential for success. Identifying and implementing new technologies can help protect mail and financial transactions. Educating consumers about the risks of mail theft and check fraud is necessary. This will allow them to take proactive steps to protect themselves.

Additionally, law enforcement and financial institutions need to continue to work together to investigate and prosecute offenders. We can create a safer and more secure environment for everyone by taking a unified approach. This approach will reduce the risk of mail theft and check fraud.

By collaborating and utilizing the latest technologies, we can create a secure and safe environment for all. We must also ensure that those who are responsible for committing these crimes are held accountable for their actions.

Protecting oneself from check fraud involves a combination of vigilance, proactive steps, and the use of technology. Here are some strategies you can use:

  1. Limit Check Usage: The simplest way to protect against check fraud is to minimize the use of checks. Opt for electronic payments whenever possible as they typically have more robust security measures.  Use your financial institution’s bill payment service.
  2. Safeguard Personal Information: Never share your account number or routing number unless necessary. If you dispose of old checks, shred them to prevent dumpster divers from getting your account details.
  3. Secure your mail. Sending checks? Use a secure mailbox or drop them off, inside, at the post office. If you’re receiving checks, consider locking your mailbox or getting a post office box.
  4. Promptly Reconcile Your Accounts: Regularly review your bank statements and immediately report any discrepancies. Many banks offer online and mobile banking which allows for quick, real-time monitoring of accounts.
  5. Use Security Features: Use checks that have built-in security features. These can include watermarks, micro-printing, or heat-sensitive ink, which make checks more difficult to alter or counterfeit.
  6. Be Wary of Fraudulent Checks: If you receive a check, especially from an unknown party, be skeptical. Look for signs of fraud such as missing security features, incorrect bank details, or unusual print quality.
  7. Fraud Detection Services: Some banks offer fraud detection services that can alert you to suspicious activity on your account.
  8. Educate Yourself: Stay informed about the latest types of check fraud and how you can prevent them. Remember, knowledge is one of the most powerful tools against fraud.

Remember, while these steps can significantly reduce your risk, no method is 100% foolproof. Always stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity to your bank immediately.


By: Mark Kesselring, SVP

Information Security | Facilities | Corporate Security

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