Howard County police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are advising residents to take precaution after a number of thefts of outgoing checks from home mailboxes were reported.
There have been approximately 40 cases of theft from mailboxes since the beginning of the year in Howard County, police said Friday. In recent months, police said they have seen a slight increase.
In each case, a suspect looks for mailboxes with red flags up, indicating there is outgoing mail to be picked up. The suspect steals checks from the outgoing mail, alters the payee's information and then cashes the victim's checks, police said.
The incidents have been reported in areas throughout the county. In some cases, outgoing mail was found strewn about the neighborhood with checks removed.
Police are encouraging residents to visit their nearest post office when sending items or use the large blue USPS collection boxes found in residential neighborhoods and shopping centers. Residents also may want to consider paying bills online through a verified banking website.
Postal inspectors recommend the following tips:
Always place your outgoing mail in a mail slot at your local post office, in a blue USPS collection box, or hand it to your letter carrier.
Retrieve your mail as soon as possible after it is delivered. Don't leave your mail unattended for extended periods. Don't leave it in your mailbox overnight.
If you cannot regularly retrieve your mail promptly, consider installing a lockable mailbox or obtaining P.O. Box service from your local post office.
If you will be away from home temporarily, you can notify your local post office to hold your mail with the online hold mail service on the US Postal Service website:
Monitor your bank account statements regularly, and report any charges or checks you did not authorize.
Monitor your credit report and report any accounts you did not authorize.
Police said report stolen mail immediately to Howard County police at 410-313-2200 or contact Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455.