Howard County Police are investigating a string of seven thefts from mailboxes in Laurel and Clarksville where checks were stolen from outgoing mail.

Police said the thief targets mailboxes with red flags up, removes envelopes that contains checks, alters the payee's information and then cashes the checks at a branch of the victim's bank.

Police said, in some cases, outgoing mail and envelopes that have been opened and then taped closed are found strewn about the neighborhood.

According to a police news release, the cases were reported between October and January. 

Police are encouraging residents to send items containing checks or other valuable items or information from their nearest post office, or to drop the mail in large blue collection boxes found in neighborhoods or shopping centers.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who is assisting police in the investigation, are advising residents follow the following steps to help protect against thefts:

  • Always deposit your mail in a mail slot at your local post office, in a blue mailbox in your neighborhood, or hand it to your letter carrier.
  • Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you're expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items.
  • If you don't receive a check or other valuable mail you're expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
  • Have your local post office hold your mail while you're on vacation.
  • If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
  • Exchange work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors so you can watch each other's mailboxes (as well as homes).

Police are asking those with knowledge of the crimes or potential victims to contact them at 410-313-3700 or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 202-636-1514.