Postal inspectors have seen an increase of people stealing mail from collection boxes in North Texas. USPS says the thieves are looking for whatever they can get their hands on.
A Fort Worth mother never thought it could happen to her.
“I'll pull up to the drive through area, and then I’ll just toss it in in here,” said the mother, who asked NBC 5 to identify her as Cynthia.
It's a monthly ritual for the North Texas mom. She drops off her mail in the box and goes about her busy day.
“I usually make sure they go all the way down,” Cynthia said. “I assume they're safe.”
Back in February, she sent off two money orders totaling $519 to pay her mortgage. Last month, she got a letter.
“It said, basically, I had 30 days to make the payment with the attorney fees included or they were gonna kick me out. But I’m like, I paid and I don’t understand what they’re talking about.”
She called Fidelity Express to track down the money orders. After taking a look at the receipts, Cynthia said, "this isn't anything I wrote."
It wasn't her name and it was definitely not her signature.
“They totally removed my information and rewrote theirs,” she said.
That means someone, somehow, stole Cynthia’s mail, possibly from her collection box.
“I didn't think it was possible. I never would have thought it was possible.”
NBC 5 Responds has learned that the thieves wait until it's dark outside and use different objects to wiggle their way into these boxes and pull out anything they can find.
Postal inspector Amanda McMurrey calls it “fishing.”
“What I think we're seeing is actually an increase in numbers in the city itself, in the Metroplex itself. So obviously the more people you have, the more crooks you're going to have,” she explained. “But we also see a portion of these people are involved in drug culture.”
McMurrey said the Postal Service has measures in place to prevent this type of mail theft from happening, but they have to balance protection with convenience.
“I could harden a collection box as much as possible to ensure that no one could break in, but then no one would be able to mail either,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cynthia has picked up extra shifts to avoid foreclosure and get out of debt. She said she won't be putting mail in collection boxes again.
“I work hard for my money and you almost took the roof from my kids, from my children. It’s horrible,” Cynthia said.
To prevent this from happening to you, here are Samantha Chatman’s Solutions:
• Do not mail anything after the last posted collection time. Those times should be posted on the box
• You also shouldn't put mail in the boxes on Sundays and federal holidays
• If you notice suspicious activity at a collection box, you're asked to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455
There is a reward of up to a $1,000 for the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing mail