BEXLEY, Ohio (WCMH) – Bexley Police are warning neighbors to avoid using the town’s blue USPS mailboxes after a string of break-ins this week.

In a social media post, the department issued a crime alert about several unsecured mailboxes throughout the city Tuesday night. Detective Sgt. Peter Brickey tells NBC4 Bexley Police have received dozens of reports of forged checks and stolen identities they believe are linked to mail theft.

USPS Mail Box
USPS Mail Box

“Mail has been stolen. And the checks in the mail – they’ll be washed and the names changed from AEP or whatever to whoever’s cashing it,” Detective Sgt. Brickey explained.

He said the thieves often cash the checks out of state, which can make it difficult for law enforcement to track and prosecute the crimes.

“A lot of times [victims] don’t notice anything’s gone wrong until they get that delinquency notice,” Brickey said.

Bexley resident Sharon Seckel changed her mailing habits after she had a check stolen and cashed several years ago.

“Christmas cards, bills, anything like that – I’ve never put them in the blue boxes, at least not for years and years. There have been issues for a long time, not just in Bexley. I think it’s across Columbus,” she said.

The police department recommends not mailing anything valuable in one of the blue USPS mailboxes. Instead, Brickey advises customers to drop off their mail in-person inside of a post office location. Additionally, he says to avoid mailing cash or money orders and pay bills online with a secure connection when possible.

If you think you’ve been a victim of mail theft, report any forged checks or stolen property to your local police department and your local post office.

The USPS also recommends the following tips:

-Don’t let incoming or outgoing mail sit in your mailbox. You can significantly reduce the chance of being victimized by simply removing your mail from your mailbox every day.

-Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you’re expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items. If you won’t be home when the items are expected, ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail.

-Just as you wouldn’t leave the door to your home unlocked while you’re away, you shouldn’t let mail accumulate in your mailbox. Don’t leave your mail unattended for extended periods. Have your Post Office hold your mail while you’re away. You can do this online at www.usps.com.

-When expecting a package delivery, track the shipment at www.usps.com. You can sign up for email and text alerts at www.myusps.com.

-If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency.

-If you change your address, immediately notify your Post Office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.

-Hand outgoing mail to your letter carrier, or mail it at the Post Office or a secure receptacle at your place of business.

-Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders. Ask your bank for “secure” checks that are more difficult to alter.

-If you have concerns about security in your neighborhood, consider installing a lockable mailbox or obtaining PO Box service from your local Post Office.

-Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted neighbors, you can watch each other’s mailboxes and residences.

If you see something suspicious, USPS urges you to call police immediately, then report it to Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (say “Theft”).