Thieves ‘washing’ and cashing checks stolen from mail, Philadelphia police warn

A warning from Philadelphia police to be extra cautious if checks are to be mailed this holiday season. Police say they are seeing a rash of mail thefts, where people are washing checks and money orders and re-writing them for their own benefit.

If Marnee Burnett has mail to send, it’s worth the extra errand to the post office to be sure it’s delivered safely.

"I never put it in the box outside," Burnett mentioned. "It’s just what I’m used to, I guess. It’s a shame that people have to worry about that nowadays."


"This is not just a crime that’s happening in South Philadelphia, it’s happening throughout the city and across the nation, from what we’re finding," remarked South Detectives Captain James Kearney. He would also say that errand is worth it.

Since October, in just South Philly alone, police have seen 91 cases of mail crimes and at least 70 percent involve people stealing checks or money orders, washing them with household products and rewriting them. Captain Kearney provided examples.

"They’re also taking people’s rent, that is paying the rent for that month, and that’s concerning us. By the time they figure it out, the money is gone," Captain Kearney explained.

Police say thieves are swiping the mailed checks and money orders from personal mailboxes, the blue USPS boxes and even found some crimes at post offices. They specifically assigned a detective to the rash of cases, working closely with the postal inspector and the Department of Justice’s office, along with banks and check cashing stores.

"If they’re getting calls from bill collectors that their check didn’t arrive, we need to know about that," Captain Kearney added.

Police believe there are more victims and want people to report cases immediately. They ask residents to know mailbox collection time and report any suspicious activity near the mailboxes. Police suggest using post offices and other secure locations for drop-offs and pay a bill online, instead of mailing the payment.

"It’s the world we live in. We just have to be careful," Burnett said.

Police say there are several cases they received 30 and 60 days after the crime, making it harder to act on. They want people to report anything that seems off right away.


Tips can be submitted by calling 215-686-TIPS (8477) or texting PPD TIP (773847). Tips can also be submitted anonymously online, here. All tips are confidential.



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