Three more readers of the Local reached out to the paper last week to complain about checks they had mailed being stolen and washed.
Three more readers of the Local reached out to the paper last week to complain about checks they had mailed being stolen and washed. All three requested their names be anonymous.
The first source said she wrote two checks from separate accounts - one from Wells Fargo and another from the University of Pennsylvania Credit Union - to pay a single credit card payment. Both checks were mailed in the same envelope from the mailbox just outside of the Market Square post office on June 19. The checks were cashed two days later, on June 21, but the source didn’t notice anything was wrong until June 30, when she was on the phone with her bank trying to set up an online account with her credit card.
“I called and they told me what the balance was and it was an outrageous amount,” said the source. The source filed a police report that day and had the money taken from the Penn Credit Union account refunded immediately. It wasn’t until July 22 - this past Friday - that Wells Fargo refunded the source their share of the money. The source said that after she filed a claim with Wells Fargo the day she got the police report, she was told by the bank to wait ten business days for an investigation.
“I waited even more than ten business days, and I said ‘what else do you need?' and then on the tenth day they closed the claim without telling me why.”
The source, who was left “outraged even more,” had to open another claim.
“It’s just so frustrating and outrageous,” the source said.
Despite asking, the source was not able to obtain a picture of the alleged fraudulent check from Wells Fargo.
In a statement previously sent to the Local, a Wells Fargo spokesperson said that the bank does “everything we can to combat fraud, protect customers and support victims.”
“When a customer notifies us about potential fraud, we have a thorough investigation process, and work to gather all of the information we need to research the claim,” she continued. “If a fraudster gains access to a customer’s account without customer involvement, we reimburse the customer after a timely claim is submitted.”
The second source, a Chestnut Hill resident, mailed four checks on July 14 either from the mailbox on Willow Grove Avenue near the Wyndmoor train station or mailbox on St. Martin’s Lane near the Philadelphia Cricket Club. She was unsure about which mailbox. On Thursday, she got a phone call from her bank, Bank of America, notifying her that somebody had tried to cash two suspicious looking checks from her account. They told her the name on the check, Sinai Parker.
“I said I’ve definitely never heard of that person before,” she told the Local. The source told the Local the checks were meant to go to a landscaping company and a vacation rental company in South Carolina. A picture of one of the checks, which was made out for $2,537.50, reveals radically different handwriting on the payee line.
“I’m going to avoid mailing checks at all costs,” she said. “What a pain.”
The source ended up having the bank freeze the accounts, so the money was never lost. She closed out her account at her bank’s recommendation. She hasn’t yet filed a police report, but plans to file one.
The third source, a Wyndmoor resident, mailed a check for $9,978 in the mailbox located in front of the Chestnut Hill post office on Germantown Avenue to Long & Foster for a vacation house rental on Dec. 26. According to the source, her husband noticed the check was stolen and washed when he saw a picture of it on their online banking account with their bank, PNC.
“It was kind of alarming when you first see it,” the source said. We quickly put it together and of course Long and Foster never got their mail.”
Somebody had attempted to deposit it, and luckily for the source, the check was still “pending” while her husband noticed the fraudulent check. As a result, the bank was able to stop the funds from going through.
“He called the bank and stopped it and the person never got the money,” the source said.
The source added that it’s “rare that we would mail a check anyway.
“In this case, we could’ve done it online but we weren’t thinking,” she continued. “After that we used the online portal [because Long & Foster never got the original money]. I definitely don’t put anything in that mailbox anymore. In reality, we might send a check once a year. It’s just not something we do anymore.”
Because the money never left the source’s account, she decided against filing a report with the police or Postal Inspection Service.
In a previous statement, Philadelphia Division Postal Inspector George Clark told the Local that the Postal Inspection Service is “doing everything in its power to combat these crimes.”
The 2021 United States Postal Inspection Service annual report, which Clark provided to the Local, reveals some of the repercussions thieves can expect if they’re caught stealing mail. Houston resident Valnica Strong-Garner was given a 38-month prison sentence and five years probation after her fifth time being arrested for mail theft in January of last year, according to the report. She had most recently used white out to erase “U.S. Department of Treasury” on a tax check mailed by a resident of Valley Grande, Ala. She later cashed the check at a local grocery store.