Remember the old phrase “the check is in the mail?” That’s a bad idea, according to the U.S. Post Office.
Scammers are targeting mail now more than ever, resulting in significant money loss and exposure of people's sensitive personal information. According to a report from Business Insider, banks issued roughly 680,000 reports of check fraud last year, up from 350,000 in 2021. The U.S. Postal Service reported about 300,000 complaints of mail theft in 2021, double the previous year’s total.
For example, mail became a particularly tempting target during Covid, when millions received government relief checks. When mail is stolen, the most common type of check fraud is called check washing. Criminals steal envelopes that look like they might contain a check from your mailbox, then change the payee’s name and dollar amount on the stolen checks. USPS said its postal inspectors recover more than $1 billion in counterfeit checks and money orders every year, many of which are altered in this way.
The USPS has tips for protecting yourself against mail theft:
Don’t let incoming or outgoing mail sit in your mailbox. You can significantly reduce the chance of being victimized by simply clearing out your mailbox each day.
The safest way to send mail is from your local post office or by handing it to a letter carrier directly.
Sign up for Informed Delivery to get daily digest emails that preview your mail and packages scheduled to arrive soon.
Keep an eye out for your letter carrier. If you see something that looks suspicious, or you see someone following your carrier, call 911.
Report stolen mail as soon as possible by submitting an online complaint to the Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis(dot)gov/report or by calling 877-876-2455
Stay safe out there.