Someone is stealing the mail.
St. Petersburg and other Pinellas communities experienced a recent rise in mail theft, according to police and financial crime watchdogs.
Throughout the past six months, the Gulfport Police Department received multiple mail theft reports.
That includes five instances of stolen packages from a mail room area at the 3209 58th St. S. property. According to GPD, this occurred between Aug. 11 and Sept. 9.
Also, Gulfport police saw three mail thefts from a U.S. Postal Service blue collection box near 31st Avenue South and Beach Boulevard South in August. At GPD’s request, The Gabber Newspaper provided footage of the alleged theft from its webcam.
The GPD said thieves stole a check from a home mailbox in June and from the mail area at the condo development at 6025 Shore Blvd. S. in August.
“We have received multiple bulletins from various agencies in reference to robberies of mail carriers targeting arrow keys,” said GPD Sergeant Thomas Woodman.
Arrow keys access blue collection bins, locked mailboxes at businesses, apartments, and parcel lockers. Additionally, there have been reports of mail thieves impersonating USPS carriers by other U.S. police.
Yolanda Fernandez, Community Awareness Division Manager with the St. Petersburg Police Department, also saw an increase in crimes linked to mail theft.
“The simple answer is yes, our economic crimes detectives have seen an uptick in forged checks that are most likely a result of mail theft,” Fernandez said.
She said SPPD refers mail theft cases to the U.S. Postal Service.
Protection From Mail Theft
USPS Postal Inspector Damien Kraebel said residents and businesses should hand mail directly to USPS carriers or take it to a post office. Woodman also suggests taking mail containing checks directly to the post office rather than using blue collection boxes.
“This would drastically reduce opportunities for the suspects,” Woodman said.
Kraebel said if checks or other monetary payments sent through the mail are delayed recipients should contact the sender.
Woodman also echoes USPS recommendations of making sure to collect received mail daily. Furthermore, use gel pens when writing checks to help protect them from getting changed and forged by thieves.
Kraebel said there were 1,500 arrests for mail-related threats in fiscal year 2021.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) issued an alert earlier this year regarding a marked rise in mail thefts and accompanying check fraud.
In 2021, banks field more than 350,000 reports with FinCen regarding potential check fraud. In 2022, that check fraud number reached 680,000.
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