Mail theft leads to check fraud, says AARP Virginia

Photo courtesy of AARP Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Fraud isn’t always high-tech — some of the most common are as old-fashioned as they come. In 2021, according to the US Postal Inspectors (USPIS), there were 33,000 reports of incidents involving mailman mugging and mail theft, up from 24,000 in 2019. What were the thieves looking for? Personal checks that can be laundered and reissued for any amount.

The easiest way for criminals to find mail to steal is to look for flag-raised PO boxes, which often contain bill payments with personal checks inside. Another possibility is for criminals to steal a master key that opens the blue boxes from a postal worker. These “arrow keys” sell for between $5,000 and $10,000 on the black market. Once they have a personal check, thieves can “wash off” the ink with household chemicals and fill it out to a new recipient for any amount.

To protect yourself, deposit mail containing cheques, cash or sensitive personal information in collection boxes as close as possible to the designated collection time – or better yet, take them to the post office for mailing.

Be a scam fighter! When you spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for everyone. Learn how to proactively detect fraud or get help if you’ve been attacked. Visit or call our dedicated hotline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.

To learn more about AARP Virginia, like us on Facebook at and follow @AARPVa on Twitter at

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans age 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families, with an emphasis on health security, financial stability and the personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace, creating new solutions and bearing the AARP name on carefully selected, high-quality products and services. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the nation’s highest-circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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