To the editor:
(re: “A $2 gel pen can thwart would-be ‘washers,’” March 2)
It was very disheartening to read your story in the recent edition of The Riverdale Press. It outlined the rash of stolen/fished mail that contained hand-written checks, that were then washed and fraudulently rewritten with new recipient’s names, and new amounts were put in that, in some cases, drained the account’s balance.
In October 2020, I was a victim. On a Friday evening, reviewing my checking account, I was stunned to see a “0” balance. I was frantic because there was nothing I could do until the following Monday morning when the (then) HSBC branch on West 235th Street and Netherland Avenue reopened.
One of the managers immediately went into action, using bank digital resources to show that the check had been cashed — yes, my account had been drained of thousands of dollars. But the records also showed a copy of the back of the check, with a signature and account number at another bank where the check had been cashed.
My money was restored to my account within a few days. I was also advised to file an official police report at the 50th Precinct. I don’t know if HSBC pursued the thief, but finding the culprit seemed a no-brainer to me. My old account was closed and a new one opened right away.
At the 50th, I met with an officer who was attentive and cooperative, and understanding of my problem. I filled out a complaint form for the theft, even though my funds had been restored. A few days later, the officer called me to fill in the rest of the case.
Yes, there was more to the theft and my story.
It turns out that, due to an observant local resident. the thief who had been fishing in the two mail drop boxes near Johnson Avenue was caught in the act. He was apprehended by police and arrested.
However, when the officers appeared at a hearing with representatives of the U.S. Post Service, the USPS declined to press charges against the perpetrator.
The reason? It was not considered “financially worth pursuing.”
I assume charges were dropped and the thief set free. It didn’t seem to matter that USPS thefts are a federal crime. I was stunned that this ongoing/growing problem was not taken seriously. Nor was any attempt made by USPS to notice the neighborhood public that there was a problem, and offering alternatives to using the street drop boxes.
I feel deeply for all those who continued to be victims of this known and documented scam. More could have been done to put a stop to the way the mail drop boxes were being violated.
I don’t fault the police, who obviously tried to do the right thing as early as 2020. I blame the postal system for not taking control and refashioning the opening of the boxes so that nothing can be fished out once dropped in.