Just when you think thieves have stooped to a new low, they suddenly reemerge with another lame scheme to get one over on their victims. Recently, some public post office community mailboxes in Mineola have been targeted by thieves in a scheme that is known by the Nassau County Police Department as mail fishing.
At a recent Third Precinct Community Forum, problem-orientated policing (POP) officers Jesse Cooper and Mike Costanzo gave a quick presentation about the issue that seems to be a growing trend with mailboxes in Queens and nearby New Hyde Park being targeted as well.
“Mail fishing is just what it sounds like,” said Costanzo. “Somebody takes a string with something sticky on the end, put it into these community mailboxes in residential areas, catch the mail on the sticky string, pull it up and get your mail. They take the mail and open it up. They’re looking for personalized checks and then take those checks and alter them.”
According to Costanzo, thieves take acetone nail polish remover and bleach out the information on the check and then write a check for any amount they want. According to the POP officers, the village had two cases of mailbox fishing so far.
“We’ve been working with the local postal inspector and they are changing the mailboxes,” said Costanzo. “They’re changing the mailboxes to one door flap where you can’t get something back. You can’t pull something back out.”
Some tips that the officers gave was to not mail money, give mail to your mailman and to put important letters inside the post office during the weekend instead of having it sit there till a Monday morning pickup.
“When we work with the postal inspector, we gave them the mailboxes that were hit the most and suggested that they replace those first,” said Cooper. “They did say that they’ll work on it. Eventually they’re all going to change.”
One of the mailboxes that were hit happened to be at the intersection of Garfield Avenue and Andrews Road. According to one resident, a $20 check that he wrote was dropped into the mailbox. However, that check was stolen and was ultimately whitewashed. Once the thief tried to present the forged check as a real one, the resident’s bank was suspicious, prompting the thief to take off. Once notified, the resident notified the Nassau County Police Department.
Another community mailbox on Willis Avenue was also targeted.