Action 9 investigates stolen checks from church in southwest Charlotte

CHARLOTTE — Mail theft has gotten so bad that some are calling it an epidemic.

Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke recently saw signs on mailboxes at the Park Road Shopping Center warning about stolen mail.

It’s not clear who put them there but they beg the question many are asking: What’s being done about it?

Alice Ashe is the financial secretary for her church, Trinity Baptist, in southwest Charlotte.

She said she mailed some of the church’s checks a few months ago and was nervous about thieves stealing them so she dropped them in the blue mailbox in front of the FBI’s Charlotte headquarters.

“I thought it’d be safe there,” she said.

But Ashe said, somehow, six checks got stolen anyway. She says someone changed the amounts on some of the checks to try to steal more than $2,300 and that the checks were used to make more than $33,000 worth of fake ones.

“The bank gave us the money back,” she told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

But, she says, a month or two later, the thief used her church’s account number to steal more money and that -- this time -- the bank didn’t help because it said she didn’t report it within two business days.

In many of these cases, thieves attack letter carriers to steal their master keys which open multiple mailboxes around town.

In fact, the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General released a report, saying “more than 2,000 assaults or robberies of postal carriers have been reported” since 2020.

Channel 9′s reported on multiple examples locally.

So what’s being done about it?

Postal inspectors say they’re working on new ways to prevent attacks.

In previous news reports, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service told Stoogenke:

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s mission is to support and protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend our nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in mail. U.S. Postal Inspectors takes seriously its role to safeguard America and will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators that use the U.S. Mail system to further their illegal activity. Every day, the U.S. Postal Service safely and efficiently delivers millions of checks, money orders, credit cards and merchandise. Unfortunately, such items are also attractive to thieves and that is why Postal Inspectors across the country are at work to protect your mail.”

The Postal Police Officers Association, which is a separate organization, used to patrol the streets. But the Postal Service has been using them to focus more on postal buildings instead. Last month, an arbitrator ruled Postal Police have the jurisdiction to protect mail carriers. The Postal Service disagreed and now Postal Police are suing.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has been publicly urging postal officials to allow Postal Police to patrol the streets.

Eight Ways to Protect Yourself:

  • Pick up mail quickly. Don’t leave it in the mailbox for a long time.
  • If you can’t, use USPS’s hold service.
  • Drop mail in blue boxes close to pickup times. [USPS calls them “blue boxes.”]
  • Better yet, drop off mail inside the post office directly if you’re worried.
  • If you’re expecting money in the mail and don’t get it, don’t hesitate: tell the sender right away.
  • Don’t mail cash.
  • If you move, make sure everyone important has your new address.
  • Use gel pens to write checks. Stoogenke almost never endorses specific brands. But he tested various pens to see if they could be erased. The uni-ball 207 performed the best. It’s easy to find and pretty cheap: about $2.

If you think someone stole your mail:

  • Report it
  • Keep a close eye on your bank accounts
  • Freeze your credit (if you haven’t already)

VIDEO: USPS office in Fort Mill targeted by mail thieves, detectives say