News 4 Investigates: Mail Theft/Check Washing -

News 4 Investigates: Mail Theft/Check Washing

In 2008, the main Post Office in St. Louis handled 15 million pieces of mail. In 2008, Postal Inspectors investigated 21 cases of stolen mail in the St. Louis area. It's obvious that mail theft is a rare crime, but that's no consolation to the Brown family in Fenton. Recently someone stole a single envelope from the mailbox in front of their home. It was a check that was being mailed out to pay for a cookbook. The crook used a method called, "check washing," to remove the ink and change the amount, from $61.97 to $800. The Browns didn't know they'd been ripped off till they got their bank statement a few weeks later. Police are hoping to identify the thief/check forger using the surveillance camera photos below.

There are several steps you can take to protect against mail theft and to stop criminals from taking one of your checks and forging their name and a new amount on it. First of all, use a gel ink pen to write your checks because it's much more difficult to wash off than ink from a ball point pen. You can wait till right before your letter carrier arrives to put out your mail. A simple, secure solution is to put your outgoing mail in a neighborhood drop box. Paying your bills online is another idea and if you're worried about the safety of the mail you receive, you could install a mailbox with a lock.

Here are some security camera photos from the bank where the criminal cashed the check he stole from the Brown's mailbox.

He was driving a late '90's model Chevy Lumina with some distinctive characteristics. You can see in the photos that the hood of the car has gray or silver paint on it and the rear door on the driver's side appears to have a dent.
If you recognize this person or the vehicle, you're asked to call the United States Postal Inspection Service at 314-539-9349.
Or call Crimestoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477).

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