Retiree warns others after losing $8,500 in check-washing theft

CHARLOTTE — Retiree Cindy Redmond noticed something was wrong after she mailed two checks from her south Charlotte home.

[ALSO READ: Pair accused of stealing mail from nearly 2,000 people across the Carolinas]

“(I) put the mail in the mailbox around (9 p.m.) and then went out for a walk about (10 p.m.) and saw the mailbox was open and empty,” Redmond said. “You get a gut feeling that’s not right. Our mailbox is never left open.”

A text from her bank Friday confirmed something was wrong.

“I went online and checked my account,” Redmond said. “And I saw that I went through all the checks. And I saw the one check made out for $8,567 was the same number check for LL Bean for $16.”

This type of theft is not uncommon. Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenkee reported on check washing in March.

>>Click here to learn about a $2 pen that helps combat check washing.

“It appears that the suspect was able to wash the check,” said Officer Johnathan Frisk, with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit. “Depending on what type of ink that somebody is using to write a check, there are various ways where people can actually remove that ink and remove the amount of money on that check and put in pretty much whatever amount they want.”

Frisk suggests people send important mail from inside the post office.

“That’s a good protection measure, actually going into one of the post office and mailing it into one of the clerks,” he said. “Making sure that it’s making its way into someone else’s hands.”

Redmon said she isn’t going to write personal checks as often.

“And if I do have to write them, I will bring them directly to the post office,” she said.

Redmond hopes that by sharing her experience, it will help others avoid becoming a victim to check washing.

“Our way of life is changing,” she said. “And it’s too bad that you can’t trust (anyone) anymore. You have to suspect anything.”

A representative with the postal inspector said to hand a letter directly to a mail carrier or go inside a post office and request a signature confirmation.

Redmond filed a report with CMPD and a claim with her bank hoping to get her money back.

If you think someone stole your mail, report it online here or call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.

(Watch the video below: This $2 pen can help protect your bank account from fraud)

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s mission is to support and protect the U.. Postal Service and it’s employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend our nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail. U.S. Postal Inspectors take seriously its role to safeguard America and will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators that use the U.S. Mail system to further their illegal activity. Every day, the U.S. Postal Service Safely and efficiently delivers millions of checks, money orders, credit cards and merchandise. Unfortunately, such items are also attractive to thieves and that is why Postal Inspectors across the country are at work to protect you email.

Here are some prevention tips that Postal Inspectors wants customers to know to help secure their mail and you can also visit USPIS Mail Theft Prevention Tips.

  • Promptly pickup mail. Try not to leave letters and packages in your mailbox or at your door for any length of time.
  • Track your packages to know when they should arrive and retrieve them quickly.
  • Don’t leave your mail unattended for extended periods. Have your Post Office hold your mail while you’re away. You can do this online at www.usps.com.
  • Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders. Ask your bank for “secure” checks that are more difficult to alter.
  • If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency.
  • Hand outgoing mail to your letter carrier, or mail it at the Post Office, an official blue USPS collection box on the street, or a secure receptacle at your place of business. When mailing something important, consider requesting Signature Confirmation for the intended recipient.
  • If you move, make sure you file a change of address with the Postal Service, inform your financial institutions and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
  • Report all suspected mail theft to the police department and the U.S Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov or 877-876-2455.