Another Chestnut Hill resident has been left reeling after having at least one check stolen after mailing it inside the Chestnut Hill post office on Germantown Avenue.
Another Chestnut Hill resident has been left reeling after having at least one check stolen after mailing it inside the Chestnut Hill post office on Germantown Avenue. The check, which was originally written for $1,000, ended up being washed and rewritten for $7,600 with a date change from April 15 to May 12.
The check was one of seven that the resident, who asked that the Local not publish his name, mailed that day. None of the other checks have been cashed, which leads him to believe that all of them were stolen, and he has since canceled the uncashed checks.
What makes this particular resident’s case different from previous cases is that the stolen checks were part of a series of unusual fraudulent financial events from his personal accounts which amounted to about $17,000 - and has left him feeling “doubtful about the system,” he said. He is now in the process of trying to recover those funds.
“It's very distressing and upsetting,” he told the Local. “Can I not mail anything anymore? I don’t trust mail. I don’t even trust the sanctity of the banks. I can’t even trust checks.”
Just ten days earlier on April 5, someone walked into a Wells Fargo bank in Virginia and withdrew $4,800 from an account he shares with his elderly mother and another $4,500 from his own personal account. The thief got the cash by filling out a withdrawal slip, the resident said.
According to the source, who has discussed the situation with local Wells Fargo officials, the only possible way for somebody to withdraw nearly $10,000 from his accounts is if the thief had two forms of identification. It's likely, he said, that the offender had used the victim’s name to create a fraudulent credit card and driver's license.
“They had to have had significant ID to do it properly,” the source said. “It must have been a license and credit card. Apparently it's easy to make up a credit card.”
Even before the April 5 withdrawal, the source was having trouble with fraudulent activity on his accounts. He noticed a strange $99 charge at a New Jersey Sunoco on his credit card statement from March 2. And he knew he had not been in New Jersey.
“Immediately I had to drop my Visa and get a new Visa card,” he said.
The weekend before Memorial Day, the source received a strange message from Verizon thanking him for his recent purchase of a new phone - which he definitely never bought.
“Are all these things related? I don’t know that,” the source told the Local. “It could just be bad luck, but I’d have to think some of it is related.”
After numerous customer service phone calls with all his affected accounts, the source is on track to get all his money back, although he’s not totally in the clear yet. But still, the amount of time and energy he’s spent on recuperating lost money has its own price.
“It takes an enormous amount of time to fix all these different things,” he said. “You have to run to the bank, talk to the cop, talk to the newspaper. It’s not very enjoyable to change all your passwords and your PINs and keep track of them all. I have to keep a list somewhere and I can’t let anyone find the list.”
The source said he’s started driving out to the suburbs to mail checks because he doesn’t trust the local mailboxes.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said.
But even that might not be 100% safe. George Clark, postal inspector at the Philadelphia Division of the Postal Inspection Service, told the Local that the Postal Inspection Service has “seen mail thefts throughout Southeastern PA.”
“It is hard to pinpoint a post office,” he said. “If a customer had a check stolen that he or she mailed at an internal mail box at the Chestnut Hill Post Office, I would encourage that customer to complain on www.uspis.gov and give as much detail as possible. That is concerning.”
Clark said the victim’s situation could possibly constitute mail theft, identity theft, aggravated identity theft, bank fraud, money laundering, conspiracy (if more than one person is involved) and/or bank fraud.
“All of these are federal crimes, but they have different elements to prove and different statutory sentencing guidelines,” he said. “As investigators, we gather the facts and we work with the attorney’s at the United States Attorney’s Office (USDOJ) to put those facts to charges.”