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Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

Using makeshift devices — including sticky mouse traps and bottles dipped into adherent solutions — attached to a string, thieves are fishing mail containing checks out of U.S. Postal Service mailboxes in northeast Queens.

Law enforcement agents at the Oct. 12 meeting of the 109th Precinct Community Council warned Flushing, Whitestone and College Point residents about two mail theft trends that have hit the area and the city.

 

“[Perpetrators] put a contraption into mailboxes on the street,” Police Officer Mark Burger of the precinct’s Anti Crime Unit said. “And they take out the envelopes; they take all the mail.”

After removing the mail, thieves sort through the envelopes looking for checks, according to Burger. Using an acetone solution, perpetrators alter both the payee and monetary value on the checks and cash them in for themselves — leaving the sender in the dark until it’s too late.

“If you see on the mailboxes a sticky substance…or markings on the drop door, I’d be very hesitant about using that mailbox,” Burger said.

When writing checks, Burger suggests using a Uniball 207 gel pen, which contains a pigmented ink that adheres to paper. The model can be found at most office supply stores.

“[The pen] makes the check very difficult to alter and wash,” Burger said.

Burger also suggested dropping envelopes containing checks into public mailboxes as close as possible to the posted collection time to ensure they are delivered into the right hands.

There have been other mail-related thefts in the area, according to Burger. Thieves have been known to search through residential mailboxes within apartment buildings for checks, credit cards and personal information.

Burger suggested residents avoid leaving outgoing mail in outboxes over weekends or holidays, and try and pick up their mail as early and frequently as possible. In addition, residents should shred any canceled or voided checks, credit card statements or any other documents containing personal information.

Deputy Inspector Judith Harrison, the precinct’s commanding officer, did have some good news to report on the topic.

“We made two arrests on [residential mail thefts] this morning,” Harrison said. “When it’s all said and done, we were able to tie these people to mail thefts dating back to a year ago. So we’re gonna drop a lot of complaint reports associated with them, and hopefully they’ll be away for a long time.”

Officials encouraged residents who see any suspicious activity around U.S. Postal or residential mailboxes to call 911 and leave an anonymous tip.

Photo by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

Photo by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

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