Congresswoman Meng wants all blue mail collection boxes in the United States to be retrofitted with narrow mail slots like this one on the corner of Cross Bay
Boulevard and 161st Avenue.
By Michael V. Cusenza
In an effort to combat mail fishing, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) this week announced that she has introduced the Keep Mail Safe Act, a bill which would require the U.S. Postmaster General to study the possibility of retrofitting all blue mail collection boxes in the United States with narrow mail slots.
Mail fishing is a federal crime in which envelopes containing checks and sensitive documents with information such as bank, credit card, and Social Security numbers are “fished out” of curbside mailboxes by crafty crooks using makeshift rods: many times it is an adhesive slathered all over a weighted, 16- or 20-ounce bottle attached to the end of a string or rope. The perpetrators then cash in at banks or check-cashing establishments through various deceitful methods.
As Meng noted, mail fishing has resulted in many incidents of identity theft and bank fraud. Last year alone, there were more than 3,000 incidents of mail fishing in the five boroughs—many occurred in Queens. While the U.S. Postal Service has begun to retrofit some collection boxes, criminals are shifting their mail fishing activity to other regions that don’t have this security feature. Retrofitting all blue collection boxes would help deter and prevent incidents of mail fishing; ensure the security of mail; and restore people’s trust in utilizing collection boxes, Meng said.
“Year after year, numerous Americans, including New Yorkers—many of whom are seniors, fall victim to criminals who steal their personal information through mail fishing,” the congresswoman added. “This has resulted in identity theft and funds being stolen from victims’ bank accounts. Last year, the Postal Service agreed to retrofit all blue mail collection boxes in my home borough of Queens after I urged the agency to do so. Now, they should look at doing the same throughout the country. We can no longer ignore this problem. The Postmaster General must conduct a study to retrofit all collection boxes.”
Last December, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service told The Forum that the agency had already replaced approximately 40 percent of the old collection boxes in Queens with new, virtually “fishing-proof” ones.
“The plan has always been to replace all of these boxes; it’s the most prudent approach,” USPIS Public Information Officer Donna Harris said. “We know it works.”
Perhaps perps have become more resourceful, because in December two personal checks were pilfered from one of those new, high-security mailboxes with the narrow slots located a few steps from the front door to the Howard Beach Post Office, the victim told The Forum. The Ozone Park woman reached out to the newspaper after receiving a phone call from a TD Bank Fraud representative inquiring about the two checks. The woman, who asked The Forum not to publish her name, said the bank staffer indicated that the two checks, which the victim said were originally made out to the amounts of $50 and $3,000, had been manipulated to the tune of $5,000 and $9,800, respectively.
The victim’s accounts were reimbursed and Harris vowed to investigate the head-scratching case.
“We don’t know what happened. Those boxes are sturdy—but nothing is 100 percent [tamper-proof],” Harris added.