Checks have been reported stolen and fraudulently cashed from U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mailboxes at 188th Street and 48th Avenue, Bell Boulevard and 35th Avenue, and 164th Street and Station Road, in front of the Flushing Post Office, according to the 111th Precinct. The report comes in the days following “several complaints” of checks stolen from mailboxes stationed in front of the Bayside Post Office, located at 212th Street and 42nd Avenue.
During mail fishing incidents, thieves attach objects dipped in a sticky substance to fishing line and drop them into USPS mailboxes. Envelopes inserted into the mailbox by local residents then stick to the object and are easily pulled out by crooks. The crime is usually conducted during nighttime hours.
Perpetrators then use an acetone wash to remove the ink from the stolen checks in order to alter payee and monetary value.
According to a recent update posted to the precinct’s official Facebook page, police officers are conducting plain clothes surveillance operations and patrols in marked cars near mailboxes to help deter criminals.
The USPS, at the request of local lawmakers, recently began installing security devices on the borough’s USPS mailboxes to prevent further thefts. Leaders at the command have met with Postal Inspectors, who confirmed that the agency is currently in the process of installing fortified mailboxes in other areas of Queens.
“We suspect a lot of our increase results from displacement from areas where this has already happened,” the post from the precinct reads. “We have been assured that the improvements are working their way toward us. We will keep you updated on progress.”
Bayside and Flushing residents are being encouraged to drop off any mail containing checks, money orders or tax returns inside of their local post office. Check your account balance frequently to ensure that there has been no suspicious activity, police said, and write checks with gel impact pens, which contain ink that is difficult to erase.
Residents should not to drop their envelopes into mailboxes that look tampered with or have missing or worn time stamps posted on them, authorities noted, and if you observe an individual tampering with a mailbox, report it to 911 immediately.
“Use mailboxes off the beaten path or none at all to lower your risk,” a tweet from the 111th Precinct reads.
Queens saw two substantial mail theft busts last month. On May 11, officers from the 112th Precinct stopped three men allegedly caught stealing an entire USPS mailbox from a Forest Hills street corner early. One week prior, the precinct cuffed two individuals who allegedly fished mail out of a U.S. Postal Service box in the area of 63rd Drive and Booth Street in Rego Park.
Updated on June 19, 4:30 p.m.