FRESNO, California (KGPE) — Just trying to pay your bills can leave you wide open to criminals. The Fresno Police Department is warning residents to be careful with their checks as more stolen check cases are reported.
The issue stems from mail thefts, a crime that hasn’t lost any steam in Fresno. Sgt. Martin Van Overbeek, the supervisor of Fresno Police’s Financial Crimes Unit, said the checks are being cashed out and duplicated – with fraudulent checks popping up all over.
“They will copy the account information and the routing information on the bottom (of the check),” he said. “They can use any commercially prepared software and now print that same information on blank checks.”
The biggest obstacle in these crimes is, victims don’t realize they’ve been hit until days – or even weeks – later. Police advise you to be vigilant of your personal financial information.
“If they have the knowledge and the ability, I would say monitor your account regularly. Look for checks out of sequence,” Van Overbeek said.
Police aren’t against people getting more secure, fortified mail boxes – but if someone is worried, it’s recommended to drop off mail at the post office.
Remember, if your checks or any other mail is stolen, call and notify your local postal inspector.
“Mail theft is a federal crime. People can be sentenced up to five years in prison and get up to a $250,000 fine,” said Brooke Robinson, a postal inspector in the San Francisco Division. “We have postal inspectors throughout the valley who will investigate your crimes.”
Van Overbeek and Robinson shared these tips to prevent you from becoming a victim of check theft and fraud:
- Keep blank checks in a secure place, like a safe.
- Shred old canceled checks.
- Keep track of checks you order from your bank or credit union.
- If you can’t check your mailbox regularly, look into getting a post office box.
- Do not put any mail in an outdoor, blue collection mailbox after its last scheduled pickup.