Thieves Targeting Mailboxes Nationwide

by Safety Connection

January 10, 2023

Last week Wauwatosa Police officers arrested 2 men after a car chase that ended in a serious crash. While checking out the vehicle, police discovered it was full of stolen mail. Some had just been taken from a mailbox near Wauwatosa City Hall.

In October we reported that a mailbox in front of the post office on Struck Street on Madison’s west side was cut into and the contents stolen. More than 3 months later, that mailbox is still not repaired:

Check washing and check fraud continue to be a growing problem nationwide, and thieves are obtaining these checks by breaking into mailboxes. Thefts from mailboxes in the Chicago area have some residents asking for the blue boxes to be removed from their neighborhoods.

In Pelham Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, police reported last month that 50% of their case load is now check fraud. A detective there told WBRC that the “increase started over the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were targeting the unemployment and COVID-19 relief checks, but it’s now evolved.”

Some mailboxes are broken into, but in other cases thieves have obtained the keys to the blue USPS mailboxes and simply unlock them. Wellesley, Massachusetts has also seen an alarming surge in mail theft, and police there recently wrote in a statement, “Checks that are stolen from the mail are altered, rewritten, and deposited into various bank accounts. Additionally, your checks contain your personal information and your bank account number – this information can easily be sold online if one of your checks falls into the wrong hands.”

Back home in Wisconsin, the National President of the postal police officer’s union told WISN 12 news last week that, “‘In Milwaukee and Wisconsin, it’s starting,’ [President] Albergo said of the mail theft trend. ‘And it’s going to get worse and worse and worse. And your mail will not be safe. You should not use blue collection boxes because the criminals have the arrow keys.'”

If you still send checks in the mail, here are some safety tips we shared in October:

The best option is to switch to online payments through your bank and digital payment services like PayPal and Venmo, and send as few paper checks as possible.

You can also:

  • Pay attention to the collection times on the post office drop box and deposit your mail before the last collection time (i.e. never let your checks/mail sit in a box overnight—your own mailbox or one belonging to the USPS)
  • Go inside the post office to mail your checks or hand your mail directly to a mail carrier
  • Use a special fraud-proof gel pen to write out your checks to make it difficult for thieves to “wash” the payee and amount. Black ink is more difficult to wash than blue.
  • Use a shredder to dispose of old or never-used checks

And of course monitor your bank account regularly. If you suspect a check is lost or has been stolen, contact your bank or credit union immediately and put a stop payment on it (you may be charged a fee).

***Update 1-20-23*** The Middleton Police Department alerted the community that they are seeing an increase in mail thefts from businesses in their industrial park and provided this surveillance image of an incident on January 15, 2023.

They said, “the passenger in this vehicle got out and took mail from the mailbox and left. He is described as a white male wearing a North Face jacket and shorts.”

If you recognize this vehicle or know anything about this crime, please contact Middleton Police at 608-824-7300 or Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014 or on the web at Please mention Middleton Police Department case # MI23000939.

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