The case of the missing mail

Yukon residents warned after criminals ‘fish’ in drop-off collection boxes

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U.S. postal inspectors and police are investigating recent reports of mail thefts after U.S. Postal Service collection boxes in Yukon were targets of “fishing”. There are several blue, metal mail “drop” boxes in the area – including this one on the south side of the Yukon Post Office. (Photo provided)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and law enforcement are investigating reported mail thefts in Yukon.

Yukon residents have contacted police and the post office after learning their mail was taken when U.S. Postal Service collection boxes were targeted by criminals.

The public can deposit outgoing mail to be collected by the USPS in the blue collection boxes, which are metal and stand about three feet tall. These “drop” boxes are distinguished by their curved top and metal drawer with pull handle.

Mail has been stolen recently from collection boxes in the Yukon area and in Oklahoma City.

“We’ve had some reports of thefts from our collection boxes,” U.S. Postal Inspector Paul Ecker confirmed. “That often consists of what we call ‘fishing’. These guys use some type of device, weighted with some sticky substance on it, feed it down the snorkel of that collection box, and try to fish mail out of it. It’s straight up fishing.

“The Postal Inspection Service is taking these complaints seriously. We have a couple guys focusing some investigative efforts and trying to make some breaks on that.”

Yukon’s Shirley McDaniel said she learned mail was stolen June 30 from the collection box on the south side of the Yukon Post Office, 900 S Garth Brooks Blvd. McDaniel had mailed several utility bills she had placed in the drop box.

“I went to the post office and confirmed they had a mailbox broken into,” McDaniel said. “They found a few pieces scattered around and torn open.

“It wasn’t just me; a lot of people probably had their mail stolen. There were checks, invoices and money that people were mailing out at the end of the month.”

USPS mail collection boxes are found on street corners, shopping centers, outside businesses and post offices. All mail that weighs less than 13 ounces with proper postage can be mailed from collection boxes.

After learning of the recent mail theft in Yukon, McDaniel called the utility companies where she mailed her checks.

“Out of four utilities, only one of them got it,” the Yukon woman added.

She ended up paying the other utility bills by phone to avoid having her electricity, water and gas service turned off.

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McDaniel contacted Yukon Police to report the crime and called her bank to place a fraud alert on her account. She notified LifeLock to report the stolen checks since check thieves can steal a victim’s identity.

Mayor Shelli Selby wants Yukon residents to be aware of the reported mail thefts so they could take steps to protect themselves, especially if the missing mail contained money or personal checks.

Mayor Shelli Selby

Stealing mail is a federal offense, Selby noted.

A FEDERAL OFFENSE

Ecker, public information officer for the Postal Inspector’s Fort Worth, Texas division, wants to public to rest assured yet remain cautious.

“While there will be thefts, the mail is still one of the most secure methods of communication out there,” he said.

To help prevent theft from USPS collection boxes, Ecker recommends customers not deposit mail inside them after that day’s last scheduled collection time.

“If they still want to drop off mail and it’s late, they can take it inside (the post office) and deposit it inside the lobby in the mail collection slot there,” he explained.

Ecker also advised Yukon residents not to mail cash.

The postal inspector did not want to discuss specific mitigation efforts the postal service is taking since these thefts are still being investigated.

“Fishing is one of those phenomena that pops up in different locations at different times,” Ecker added. “It doesn’t seem to be a consistent issue in any one location.

“The post office has been trying to retrofit collection boxes with an anti-theft device. Obviously, that’s a timely and costly measure. So, we haven’t been able to retrofit all the collection boxes.”

After finding out her mail had been stolen, McDaniel was asked to share advice for fellow Yukon residents.

“I’m not ever going to use an outside, drop-off mailbox again because they’re evidently a ‘hot’ target now,” she responded. “If I can’t go inside (the post office) to mail it or pay it online, I probably won’t.

The Yukon Police Office services the 73099 and 73085 zip codes.

Regular window hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Early mail pickup is offered from 6-8 a.m. inside the post office lobby.

To report vandalism or mail theft, call the Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455. Theft prevention tips are available at www.uspis.gov

“Anyone who feels they are a victim of mail theft should immediately report that to us, as well as the police,” Ecker said. “They should take other preventative steps – checking their bank accounts and credit card statements to make sure there’s no discrepancies there.

“They should notify us and the police of any fraudulent activity that they discover, because all those become potential leads.”

Editor’s Note: Yukon Progress staff writer Conrad Dudderar had two pieces of mail containing personal checks written to utility companies stolen from a USPS collection box this March in Yukon. One check was altered (or “washed”) with the name of the payee, check amount, date, and memo line information changed. The thief presented the fraudulent check at a bank branch in Oklahoma City; it was processed, and the person received $500 cash. A fraud report was made to law enforcement and the bank, and the incident is being investigated by the Postal Inspection Service.

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