ALEXANDRIA, VA – Scams aren’t always high tech – some of the most common are about as old fashioned as they come. In 2021 there were 33,000 reports of incidents involving mail carrier robberies and mail theft, up from 24,000 in 2019, according to the US Postal Inspectors (USPIS). What were the thieves looking for? Personal checks that can be washed and re-written to anyone for any amount.
The simplest way for criminals to find mail to steal is to look for mailboxes with a raised flag, which often contain bill payments with personal checks included. Another way is for criminals to steal a master key that opens the blue boxes from a postal worker. These “arrow keys” sell for between $5,000 and $10,000 on the black market. Once they have a personal check, thieves can “wash” the ink off with household chemicals and fill it out to a new recipient for whatever amount they wish.
To protect yourself, deposit any mail containing checks, cash or sensitive personal information in collection boxes as close to the indicated pickup time as possible — or better yet – bring them inside the post office for mailing.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted. Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability, and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the nation’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.