LITTLE FALLS, NJ — Local police departments responded to burglaries and thefts involving United States Post Office blue collection mailboxes Little Falls at 229 Main St. and Woodland Park at 1017 McBride Avenue earlier this week. Similar incidents also occurred in Fairfield, Caldwell, West Caldwell, Livingston, Pine Brook and Orange, according to police.
Police said that unknown actor(s) pried open the mailboxes and took the contents of each.
These burglaries are now under investigation with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and are considered serious offenses. Under U.S. Code Title 18, theft or receipt of stolen mail matter is a federal offense.
Punishment under this title is a fine and/or imprisonment not more than five years. Subjects may face local charges that include eluding arrest, conspiracy, theft, stolen property, and/or disorderly conduct. The USPIS stated that the integrity of the U.S. Mail, as well as our customers who utilize the mails to conduct correspondence, is extremely important to the United States Postal Service. It’s the mission of the USPIS to ensure public trust in the US Mail and that those who infringe upon that are apprehended and brought to swift justice.
The USPIS also said similar collection box thefts occurred that same night near 1 De Boer Dr. in Glen Rock, 12-44 River Road, Fair Lawn, and 7-13 Rover Rd., Fair Lawn. Investigators say that in all cases, suspects are likely looking for financial instruments (i.e. checks, money orders) or cash bearing gifts (i.e. gift cards).
The USPIS also stated that in several instances the subjects “wash” (aka alter) the checks to bear a payable party unknown to the originating party or account owner. This results in payments not received by the intended party.
Victims have been subject to late fees and/or penalties associated with nonpayment of services or credit payments. Checks are remotely deposited utilizing various applications provided by the financial institutes, as well as ATM’s at various financial institutions. Subjects have created checks based on the known account number listed on the stolen check to draw additional funds from the account prior to the victim having any knowledge of these withdrawals until their next bank statement.
Due to the sensitivity of these investigations, the USPIS could not comment on video surveillance or tactics utilized by law enforcement but did issue the following statement to local residents:
"We the USPIS are aware of these issues within the Northern New Jersey area, in particular Woodland Park and Little Falls, and are working with local and state law enforcement to identify and prosecute those responsible. Postal Inspectors will continue to aggressively pursue these investigations in which the U.S. Mail is used to facilitate this crime.
We are currently investigating and implementing additional innovative methods to safeguard the U.S Mail. One of the many initiatives the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has spearheaded is the use of retro-fitted mailboxes with additional security devices installed at select locations to address the mailbox fishing issue in New Jersey.
Located on several collection mailboxes the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has placed bilingual stickers advising customers to avoid depositing mail in the mailbox after the last posted pick-up time by the U.S. Postal Service. These stickers are placed on the mailbox warning customers of the potential for mail deposited after marked pickup times of being tampered with or stolen.
Criminals use “fishing” devices in attempts to gain access to blue collection mailboxes. These devices generally consist of a sticky device such as a glue rodent or insect trap. A potential sign that a collection mailbox was a target is the presence of glue residue in or on the mailbox."
Bergen, Union, Passaic, Middlesex and Essex counties have reported the scheme. To ensure not to jeopardize any active investigations, and not to name specific municipalities, we are asking customers in the following counties to be vigilant regarding mailbox fishing.
Customers can help keep the mail safe by reporting any suspicious activity around the mailboxes.
If any customer believes they have been a victim of mail theft as a result of mailbox fishing, they should contact Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455, and select Option 2. Report this directly to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service versus your local Post Office to ensure that your complaint is addressed and the information is reported in a timely manner to your local Postal Inspector.
Mail Fishing Prevention Tips:
- Deposit outgoing mail into blue collection boxes before the final pick up of the same day of deposit. Check the pick-up schedule times posted on the box to ensure your mail will not sit in the box overnight or over the weekend/holiday.
- Collect your mail from your mailbox every day as soon as possible after it is delivered. Do not allow mail to accumulate, even in a locked mailbox.
- If you plan on traveling and will not have access to your daily mail delivery please consider placing your mail on hold at your local office via online or in person.
- If you have concerns about security in your neighborhood, place mail in a collection box in another area, in a secure receptacle at your place of business, or at a Post Office.
- If you see any suspicious substance, such as glue or other sticky product on the mailbox, contact your local Post Office to report it, and notify Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455.
- Immediately report any suspicious activity at any mail receptacle to your local police and contact the Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455.
- Monitor and review your financial statements regularly (bank/credit card) to ensure that no suspicious or unauthorized activity has occurred. If you mailed a payment to a creditor and it has not been received please review your account to ensure the check was not altered and payable to another party.
If customers believe they have been a victim of mail theft, identity theft, fraud or other crimes involving the U.S. Mail, they can report it online 24/7, by visiting the Inspection Service website at www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov. (Select “contact us” and then “file a complaint.”) Customers can also call our national 24/7 hotline at 877-876-2455 and select option 2.