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Theft-resistant mailboxes not so theft resistant anymore; officials in some towns urge people to drop off their outgoing mail at post offices instead

Police in Newton and Wellesley report a significant increase in people having their checks stolen by mailbox fishers, even from the newer models designed to prevent such crimes, and are telling residents it's time to drop their mail off at their local post office, rather than using a box on the street, especially if they contain checks.

In Wellesley, police report the thieves have countered the design of the new box by figuring out how to steal keys for them from the postal service, making the theft of letters a snap.

In e-mail to residents this week, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said that residents who continue to use street boxes should at least use "security pens with specially formulated gel ink that embeds itself to the paper fibers to help prevent against check washing and document fraud," because what the thieves try to do with checks is carefully erase the payee and amount and swap in new names and numbers that could drain thousands from people's checking accounts.

Fuller also urged residents still paying bills by check to look into electronic payment - many now offer e-payment of utility and other recurring bills. But people just set in their ways should "use mail boxes inside United States Postal Service Offices," she wrote, adding that people who do fall prey to a fisher should report the incident to Newton Police. She added, however, "these crimes are exceptionally difficult to solve."

Boston is not immune. Maureen O'Hara reports:

It’s happened to three people I know in 02116 Back Bay



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I would use my bank's bill payment service for everything, since it can mail paper checks to anyone.

EXCEPT that it's really annoying. It takes several days longer than it should to get the check in the mail. Why? Shouldn't the software just print and mail everything by the end of the business day?

And it's very hard to track when they've actually mailed it, and when the check cleared, even harder than if I'd just mailed a check myself.

Voting closed 6

I haven't had problems like that with my bank.

Voting closed 17

A couple of things about this latest rash of criminality. First, the blue collection boxes are relatively safe, if mail is deposited before the last pick-up time on the box. Don't deposit mail in these boxes after that last collection. If it's in the box overnight or over a weekend it's very possible it could be stolen.
As far as the thieves 'figuring out' how to steal the arrow keys, it's done the old-fashioned way. They're stolen at gunpoint or by other forceful means. These keys are not only used to open blue collection boxes, but they also open the green storage boxes. Additionally, the keys can open some key keepers that allow entry for the carrier to go into an apartment building or other building.
The USPS lately has been curtailing the postal police from some of their duties. This is pretty shortsighted given the current situation. This is a nationwide problem.
Merry Christmas!

Voting closed 22

"As far as the thieves 'figuring out' how to steal the arrow keys, it's done the old-fashioned way. They're stolen at gunpoint or by other forceful means."

I had a very strong feeling that's how it had to be done. I just cannot imagine a mail delivery person forgetting they left their keys in the mailbox.

Voting closed 3

Several reports - the mailboxes right in front of the post office. So don t drop your mail in the outside box. Go inside. It might be safe there :-(

Voting closed 4