Area residents are urged to be cautious with bills paid by check and placed in outgoing mail for pickup as police probe three cases involving thieves taking those payment checks to print and pass fraudulent checks with the stolen account information.
Detectives are investigating incidents of check fraud that have occurred as a result of outgoing mail being taken from mailboxes in the 4300 block of North Kickapoo, the 4000 block of North Aydelotte and the 4300 block of Faith Blvd.
Joan Reeves, one of the area residents affected by this fraud, discovered the checks she mailed for her March utility bills never made it to their intended destinations after she was double billed for utilities in April.
“This is scary — we didn’t even know until we got the April bills,” Reeves said.
Reeves said she paid three utility bills by check last month and placed them in her mailbox at her driveway for the letter carrier to pick up. She assumed they were picked up and paid, but found differently when she received April’s bills showing past due amounts.
She checked her bank statement and found that three checks were cashed for the same amounts, but the check numbers were not the same ones she had written.
“It scared me to death,” she said. “I knew they weren’t mine…I still had those checks in my checkbook and they weren’t written.”
She contacted her bank, and sure enough, there had been fraudulent checks — one electronic and the rest paper checks — passed with her account information, although the name, phone numbers and other information were wrong, she said.
“When I see situations like this, I think, ‘how can people do that,’” she said.
She filed a police report and immediately learned that there are two other similar cases under investigation.
Shawnee Police Cpl. Kimberly Dibble completed Reeve’s report, which shows the fraud involved Reeves’ account number being used on checks, although they portrayed a different bank. One of the fraudulent checks was passed in Shawnee, while others were in Oklahoma City, the report shows.
Shawnee Police Sgt. Dan Shumaker said the mail thieves are stealing the checks people are mailing to pay bills and then are using the routing and account number to print more checks. Those checks are then being cashed in the amount of the checks written, likely because the thieves know those amounts are set aside for the checks to clear.
“They know that amount can be covered,” Shumaker said. “They know the checks are good.”
Page 2 of 2 - Because of technology, thieves are finding ways to create these fraudulent checks, he said, and in many cases, likely saw the red flags on mailboxes indicating to the carrier there are items for pickup inside.
Police caution area residents not to leave outgoing mail with checks in their boxes, suggesting instead to take those directly to a post office or designed drop-off mailbox.
Reeves, who has never had any problems like this, said she’s going to make some changes in her bill paying routine.
“I’ll be more careful — I certainly won’t put them in the mailbox anymore,” she said. “I’ll take them directly to the post office.”
Reeves also has a good piece of advice for others.
“Check your accounts often,” she said. “This is a scary world we live in now.”
Shawnee police are investigating all three cases.
Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers, 405-273-0989.