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Posted on: September 21, 2022

Blue Mail Boxes Continue to be a Source of Mail Theft

Postal Inspector is investigating; residents are advised to make payments electronically

In recent months, thieves in the DC region have stolen mail box keys (‘arrow keys’)—some by robbing mail carriers at gunpoint—and used those arrow keys to steal mail from blue mail boxes in Bethesda and Chevy Chase (see this article from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/05/01/chevy-chase-mailbox-stolen-checks/).  The thieves then find checks within the mail, ‘wash’ them chemically, and forge them sometimes for thousands of dollars.  

 One of our residents reported that she mailed a check inside the lobby of our post office (as we have recommended), and that check was also stolen and forged.  There is some concern about the security of mail within the post office system as a result.   While there is reason for concern, please remember that after the mail leaves our local post office, it proceeds through several steps and locations where a thief could take advantage of an opportunity to steal mail.  It is not at all clear that any postal employee is involved.  Please be careful not to direct blame at any person or group prematurely; we simply do not know who is responsible right now. 

 The Chevy Chase Village Police Department has been in direct contact with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).  They are aware of these crimes and they are investigating.  Additionally, due to the report of mail stolen after it was deposited inside a post office, the Postal Service Inspector General’s Office will be investigating that event.  

 Meantime, Village Police have requested that the postmaster temporarily remove the compromised blue mail boxes from the Village until the USPS finds a way to make them secure again.  Once they solve the problem, they will replace the blue boxes for the convenience of patrons.  

 For now, the Village Police Department and the USPIS strongly recommend that residents follow the below advice to avoid being a victim of mail theft:  

  • Make electronic payments rather than mailing checks; write as few checks as possible.
  • Do not place outgoing mail in USPS mailboxes or in your private mailbox or mail slot.
  • Take outgoing mail to the post office and drop it through the slot inside the lobby. 
  • Ask your bank for ‘secure’ checks that are more difficult to alter.
  • Use fraud-resistant pens to write any check that you must issue.
  • Report stolen mail by calling 877-876-2455.

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