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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
U.S. Postal Service officials recently met with residents of James Creek to offer prevention tips following mail theft in the community.
A homeowner on Littlebrooke Drive said she put outgoing mail in her mailbox one day in January and found, later that day, that the mail was gone but no new mail had been delivered.
“I thought it was strange, because we always get something in the mail,” said the homeowner, who asked not to be identified because the case was under investigation at The Greater Olney News press time.
The same thing happened to other nearby homeowners.
One of the items she had put in the box was a credit card bill payment. Shortly after the mail disappeared, she noticed unusual charges on her credit card.
Frank J. Schissler, U.S. postal inspector and public information officer, said he is aware of the incident but could not comment on it because postal officials were investigating.
He did not have information on whether there have been other recent mail thefts reported in the area, but offered some nationwide statistics.
There were 1,348 mail theft cases initiated in fiscal 2016, down from 1,400 in fiscal 2015. The number of arrests rose from 2,357 in fiscal 2015 to 2,437 in fiscal year 2016.
This is not the first time mail theft has been reported in the area.
At a Greater Olney Civic Association meeting in 2014, Montgomery County Police Detective Kim Bonato said that from January through September of that year, 165 cases of mail theft were reported in the county, of which 33 were from the Wheaton/Olney area.
She had said the number of cases was probably double that, with some cases not reported.
Bonato had said the thieves typically drive around in early-morning hours, looking for the red flags up on residential mailbox, signaling mail to be picked up by postal carriers.
The thieves are specifically looking for checks. They scratch off the name and/or amount with a razor blade or knife and alter the check, she had said.
Schissler offered the following recommendations:
Retrieve mail as soon as possible after it is delivered. Don’t leave mail unattended for extended periods.
If you cannot regularly retrieve mail promptly, consider installing a lockable mailbox or obtaining post office box from the local post office.
If you will be away from home temporarily, you can notify your local post office to hold your mail at https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/.
Always place your outgoing mail in a mail slot at your local post office or in a blue U.S. Postal Service collection box or hand it to a letter carrier.
Ask your bank for “secure” checks that are more difficult to alter.
Monitor 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.
If you believe you are a victim of mail theft or identity theft, contact postal inspectors at 877-876-2455 or https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/.
Terri Hogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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