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Break-ins reported at USPS mail collection boxes

The postal inspector says it was most likely thieves trying to steal people's checks.

SCRANTON, Pa. — It is September 1, so if you have rent or any bills due, you might want to think twice before dropping them off in the USPS collection boxes.

The boxes outside the post office on Stafford Avenue and South Main Avenue in Scranton were broken into overnight Monday into Tuesday.

The United States Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement agency for USPS, is investigating the incidents.

The postal inspector tells us that what he sees most often is thieves looking for people's checks.

So if you dropped off any money in either of these locations on Monday evening, you should monitor your bank activity and report anything suspicious to the postal inspection service. You can do so here.

This has been happening more and more recently in different parts of the country, including in the Philadelphia area.

Our sister station there, WPVI-TV, has done several stories on the problem, and in some cases, the victims report that not only were their checks stolen, but they were altered and cashed for higher amounts.

It's called "check washing." The thieves, in some cases, will literally "wash" the check with chemicals to remove your handwriting, change the number, and who it's made out to.

So what can you do to protect your money?

The postal inspector says most often, these crimes occur in the dead of night. So pay attention to the collection times listed on the collection box.

  • Don't drop off a check after the last collection time, or it'll be left in the box overnight.
  • Whenever possible, drop off checks inside the post office, hand them directly to your mail carrier, or pay your bills online.
  • Monitor your bank accounts to make sure checks are ending up where they're supposed to.
  • Report stolen checks right away to the postal inspection service, your bank, and the police.

The sooner you do that, the better chance the postal inspector has of tracking down your money.

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