COLORADO SPRINGS — Right now Colorado Springs Police Department Financial Crime Unit investigators are warning about a surging number of cases where fraudsters are stealing people’s checks being sent in the mail.
It’s true that less people are writing checks these days, but according to the federal reserve last year people wrote 3.4 billion checks and the average amount per check was more than $2,500. This is why local investigators say crooks are hoping to get their hands on checks sent in the mail. News5 learned from one of our viewers how they’re having some success stealing people’s money.
”I had heard so much about stolen checks, but I thought it’ll never happen to me,” said Colorado Springs homeowner Helen Wein.
She is 90 years old and says she’s always paid her bills with checks through the mail utilizing the convenience of the outgoing community mailbox in her neighborhood.
So when she got her credit card bill saying they didn’t get her payment and she had a late fee, she knew something was wrong.
”When I got my bill from Discover I had a $60 late fee and so I called them and they said they had not received my check,” said Wein.
Speaking with her bank, she learned the check for more than $1,500 never made it to the credit card company, but sometime after being dropped in the mailbox it was stolen and deposited at another bank locally. Her money was gone and she was still on the hook for the credit card payment.
”I will never mail another check at my community mailbox. I will go to the post office,” said Wein.
Not giving up on the situation, she worked hard to get all of the details about her check and where it was deposited. Then she contacted us at News5 for help.
”This is some of the paperwork,” she said as she showed us the stack of papers.
Seeing all of her evidence, News5 connected her with investigators at CSPD who immediately launched an investigation.
”Oh it made a lot of difference because every person involved in this knew that you all were on it. You had my back,” said Wein.
After a couple of weeks, she says investigators identified a suspect and money was returned to her account.
”I did not want this to happen to anyone else,” said Wein. “It just happened to turn out ok after a while.”
CSPD Detective Raymond Wetzel says Wein’s story is a good example of the stolen check cases that continue to come across his desk.
”The checks are either being re-written, washed or what have you and then deposited into accounts where they weren’t meant to be,” said Wetzel. “I’ve worked on current cases where checks were stolen locally, but the information was used to produce new checks that were then deposited in banks in other states.”
He suggests exploring secure electronic payments for bills and if you have to mail a check you should take it inside the post office when sending it out.
”If you feel like maybe throwing your check in the mail isn’t a good idea for you then don’t do it. There are other means. It’s not the only way to do it anymore,” said Wetzel.
If you have a check stolen, the first step you should take is to contact your bank and let them know. Second, you should file a police report. This could help investigators uncover a bigger problem.
If your stolen check is deposited, now your bank will know and can provide a copy of the check to investigators which will likely be a key piece of evidence to try to catch the thief and get your money back.
If you have questions, or a case you'd like us to help with you can always reach out to News5 anytime at this link: https://www.koaa.com/about-us/contact-news5/news5-investigates-contact
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