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U.S. postal inspectors are probing numerous mailbox fishing cases throughout North Jersey. Arrests have been made, but the incidents have not stopped.

If you’re a New Jersey resident who is lamenting the loss of their big blue mailbox on the corner, you might want to reconsider. What might seem like convenience is actually a target for “mail fishing,” a type of scam where thieves steal valuables right from the mailbox.

In recent months, police throughout the area have seen a rash of mail fishing thefts — low-tech crimes in which rudimentary tools are covered with sticky substances to pluck bank documents, checks and birthday cards out of collection boxes.

Postal inspectors have confirmed 13 municipalities in Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties are a part of an ongoing probe of mailbox fishing. Here’s how to keep your mail safe, and additional precautions to take if you’re using a collection box.

5 ways to protect your mail

  • Don’t use a collection box. Instead, use the letter slots inside a Post Office to drop off mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.
  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight, especially if you’re expecting checks or credit cards. The U.S. Postal Service discourages sending cash through the mail.
  • Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.
  • If you can’t be there to pick up your mail, make arrangements for someone you trust to pick it up, or contact your post office to hold your mail while you are out of town.
  • Didn’t get that check you were waiting for? Report suspected mail theft immediately to police, then call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 3).

3 ways to use collection boxes safely

Police are discouraging the public from using collection boxes altogether due to the security concerns. However, if you must use a collection box, here are the best practices according to police and the U.S. Postal Service.

  • Pay attention to collection times. Last collection is typically at 5 p.m. If mail is deposited afterward, it will sit vulnerable until the next business day.
  • Avoid dropping mail in collection boxes over holiday weekends, or on nights before holidays. Fishing incidents are most common on Sunday night, according to police.
  • Speak with your local post office or mail carrier to determine which collection boxes in your area are up-to-date with security regulations. Certain collection boxes in New York have been retrofitted with security measures after a rash of mail fishing in the area in 2017. 

If you think you were a victim of fraud, identity theft or another mail-related crime, report it at postalinspectors.uspis.gov, or call 877-876-2455.

Crime: ‘Mail fishing’ thefts on the rise in North Jersey

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Staff writers Phillip DeVencentis and Matt Kadosh contributed to this report.

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