ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office is warning residents of an uptick in mail theft, specifically stolen checks.
"We put nothing in the mailbox at all, even though we live in a gated community," Bernice Bentley, who lives in St. Lucie County, said.
People in St. Lucie County are rethinking how they mail important documents and checks.
"I go through a person instead of the self-service kiosk, and I do first class and I require a signature. It's a little extra money, but when doing an important document, it's better to get that extra closure," resident Angelina Whitehead said.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office is seeing an uptick in mail theft. Officials said the thieves are mainly after cash and checks.
"We had two in April, which that was the first two this year that had been reported and then in the month of May, we had five," Chief Deputy Brian Hester told WPTV.
Hester said in almost all of these cases, the suspects are washing the checks.
"They change the name or they simply just create a fraudulent account and tried to cash that check," Hester said.
The sheriff's office suggests people take the following precautions:
- Check your mailbox daily
- Choose paperless billing
- Never send cash through the mail. Use a money-wiring service or banking app instead.
- Use a secure mail center for sensitive outgoing mail
- Put a hold on all mail and newspaper deliveries when traveling out of town
- Sign up for Informed Delivery
"Online banking is a very easy way to eliminate checks going out, and it's a very easy way to send your money but also receive much of the money that you bring in directly to your bank account," Hester said.
Back in early April, Contact 5 told you about a similar check-washing scheme in Boca Raton where someone was stealing checks right out of post office drop boxes, leaving dozens of people out thousands of dollars.
"I was shocked when I opened the bank statement and there was $9,300 missing," John Haberlein told WPTV in April.
Boca Raton police confirmed to Contact 5 earlier this week that they now have a suspect they've tied to several cases, but they have not yet made any arrests.
Hester told WPTV he thinks their cases in St. Lucie County are likely all connected, but they don't have a suspect at this time.
"The world today, there is so much theft going on," Bentley said. "It's terrible. It's an awful thing."