According to Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox, three people reported that someone stole the mail out of their mailboxes and then stole and altered checks. The cases happened in Trafalgar.
"What's happening is people are driving around their neighborhoods, they see that red flag up and they're reaching inside the mailboxes, stealing their mail and taking it home and then doing the work that they need to on the check," Cox said.
In one case, a check that was supposed to be mailed to a company was cashed at an Indianapolis Walmart for nearly $370. In another case, a check to an insurance company was stolen and altered before being cashed at an Indianapolis-area Meijer for almost $700.
A third case involved a man who received a call that his car payment hadn’t been received. The man contacted his bank, where workers discovered that the check had already been cashed.
“Looking at our checkbook and everything, it all came together and then when we went to the bank, we looked at the check and you could tell it had been altered," the victim, who asked not to be identified, told Fox59.
The bank agreed that the check had clearly been altered, and said the teller should have noticed. Surveillance cameras showed that a woman cashed the check.
In each case, investigators said the victims put outgoing mail in their mailboxes, which someone then stole before altering the checks. The thieves changed the “pay to the order of” part of the check to their name or a fake name. The technique is called “washing,” and police said it involves using chemicals to change the writing on a check.
Police said ink from ballpoint pens is most susceptible to the technique. They recommended using a felt tip or gel pen because the ink is more difficult to tamper with.
And then there’s the matter of skipping the mailbox and taking checks to the post office.
"Yeah, I think we'll be dropping it off at the post office instead of putting it in our mailbox,” the victim told Fox59.
Investigators said residents should be very careful about what they put in the mail. The department has provided a list of additional resources at its website.