Checks Swiped From Mailbox Just Outside the Post Office; Thieves Steal $53,000

The check-theft trend continues on the Upper West Side, and thieves seem to be getting even more brazen. One of the latest heists was also the largest in the neighborhood. Someone swiped five checks from a mailbox right outside the Planetarium Post Office at 127 West 83rd Street. The thief “washed” the checks, erasing the ink, and wrote new ones for a total of $53,000, according to the 20th precinct.

Captain Timothy Malin, commanding officer of the precinct, said that it’s not clear whether this was another case of “mail fishing,” a crime that has plagued the Upper West Side and other neighborhoods for years. “Mail fishing” is a tactic where a thief drops a sticky item attached to a string into a mailbox to lift letters back out. If it wasn’t mail fishing, it may have been a case of a thief using a key to get in, Malin said.

The U.S. Postal Service has been aiding in the investigation, and working on preventing further such crimes by installing new mailboxes with smaller doors, so that thieves can’t fish as easily. But those updated boxes aren’t set to arrive until October at the earliest. Until then, Malin recommends dropping all of your mail inside the post office.

Here’s a list of the boxes that thieves have hit in the 20th precinct this year. “It’s everywhere,” said Malin.

NEWS | 42 comments | permalink
    1. Davie says:

      Wow! I was afraid that this would happen again. One reason, as most of you already probably know, why they target mailboxes on the UWS is that these theives know that a lot of us are old- fashioned folks who still write checks to pay our bills and then mail them. Here’s what I do to avoid my envelope enclosed checks from being stolen: I only mail them at the two mailboxes located at the Northeast corner of 79th and Amsterdam. Why? Those two mailboxes each have just one small tiny thin slot for letters and no movable openings. Does anyone know if there are more of these thin slot letter only mailboxes in the UWS? I apologize in advance if this is old news and most of you know where these slot mailboxes are located. I feel like Mr.Rogers sometimes! Won’t you be my neighbor?

    2. robert says:

      This is also an issue in the 24th precinct
      The CO there Capt Seth Lynch and his anti crime team lead by PO Guzman have repeatedly suggested dropping your mail inside the PO. They have slots on the wall and there is a pen called a Uniball 207 gel ink pen. These pens are mentioned repeatedly by the NYPD as a way to cut down on the number of check washing victims. Apparently this pen has a type of ink that can not be washed off with acetate etc

    3. Cato says:

      And what about the security cameras immediately outside this federal facility? What do they show about the culprit?

      Oh, wait….

      Your federal tax dollars, *not* at work!

    4. dannyboy says:

      Adds a variation to the The Check Is In The Mail Excuse.

    5. sam says:

      FYI, the post office at 67th and columbus opens pretty early in the morning (6 or 7 am on weekdays), so it’s easy to just go inside and drop your mail in one of the slots INSIDE the post office instead of the boxes on the street.

      On the rare occasion I have to drop off mail or a package, this is what I do now rather than dropping it in a blue box.

    6. jd says:

      Don’t these post offices have video cameras?

    7. Charles says:

      Isn’t it obvious that the check has been altered, making it easy for banks to cancel the payment?

      • dannyboy says:


        See headline above reading: “Thieves Steal $53,000”

      • robert says:

        The check is actually “washed” in an acetate like substance that only dissolves the ink written on it. They dip it so that everything but the signature comes off. The check is then dried. You may say but the hand writing doesn’t match, remember to watch what happens the next time you hand a teller a check. They run it thru a machine that electronical reads the aba routing number and the account number, while doing this it actually checks your bank and moves the money. Because the banks still get the float on the $$$$ you may not see the full deposit right away.

    8. Gina says:

      The list is not complete. I’m not sure what falls under “unknown” but last month my check was fished out of a mailbox on 102 and CPW. It was “washed” and subsequently cashed at a Chase branch in the Bronx. I have the police report and reported it to the USPS inspectors. I no longer drop any mail into a mailbox.

      • dannyboy says:

        “The list is not complete.”

        I’m sure the list is constantly updated for the betting pool.

      • robert says:

        pls tell me you reported this to the 24 precinct ASAP
        They have been able to make a series of arrest of folks that have been hitting the same mailboxes repeatedly. I’m not at liberty to talk about how they caught them but it can be done. If you are unsure of how and or who to talk to at the 24 pls respond and I will forward you that info

      • your_neighbor says:

        The list is for mailboxes in the 20th precinct which does not go that far uptown.

      • Peggy McGarry says:

        Wow! I had mine phished or otherwise stolen from a box in front of the 95th & Columbus P.O. But 102 & CPW is such a busy corner because of the subway and school in the next block. Wow. Will continue to go to the PO to mail bills. Sigh.

    9. nycityny says:

      The most surprising theft on the list is 185 West End Ave. That is inside one of the Lincoln Towers buildings at the elevator bank. I thought those were pretty safe but apparently not. Wow.

    10. Charles says:

      Inside job. Absolutely no question.

    11. Emily says:


      “Until then, Malin recommends dropping all of your email inside the post office.”

      Let’s hope people aren’t dropping off their email. All those poor trees dying for nothing.

    12. Brian says:

      Box on 79th/Col was sprayed w substance so mail stuck to back of box. Reported it to 311.

    13. Rebecca says:

      This happened to me at 76th and Amsterdam

    14. BillyNYC says:

      If I mail letters it’s only deposit in letter-size door mail box’s like the one at 81st St. and Columbus Avenue and 79th St. and Columbus Avenue are safe I don’t know why the post office needs large doors on any mailbox we should go back to the old time small slots letters only mail box’s. If you had a package delivered to the post office! deposited and small door they don’t open that only have the slot like the one at 81st St. and Columbus Avenue and 79th St. and Columbus Avenue are safe. You have a package deliver it to the post office yourself or have the post office pick it up from your home.
      Learn to use the Internet to pay your bills from home.

      • dannyboy says:

        “I don’t know why the post office needs large doors on any mailbox”

        Like so many bureaucracies, the PO pushed self-service on us. We are now paying the price of their “efficiencies”.

    15. PB says:

      It has also happened from the mailbox outside the post office on 112th between Broadway and Amsterdam. I know from experience and have filed an official police report.

    16. Karen says:

      I don’t see 93rd and Columbus listed ?- we had around 3 checks forged from that Post Office – not sure whether they were posted from the box outside or inside the facility

      • dannyboy says:

        The betting pool’s been fixed!

        Call the Postal Inspector!

        Wait, the Postal Inspector isn’t doing so well with with mail in his boxes.

    17. Neil says:

      This happened to me! My $2K rent check was washed to show $1,300. I dropped it at either 70th and B’Way/Amsterdam, 66th and Amsterdam, or 58th and 10th. It took Chase about two weeks to reverse the charges.

    18. Elke says:

      This is what we were discussing about mailbox fishing! Unbelievable!!!!!

    19. Sean says:

      Lobby the real estate industry to accept rent payments by smartphones. The USPS is on its way out. It’s a thing of the past. You should be able to use your smartphone to enter mass transit as well. No one emails anymore either. That’s so last century. Cut the cord and get rid of the landline too.

      • dannyboy says:

        “The USPS is on its way out. It’s a thing of the past.”

        Privatize much?

        • Sean says:

          It has nothing to do with privitization. Technology has hit the USPS in a big way. And once Amazon starts delivering their own packages it’s over.

          • dannyboy says:

            You must know that privatization interests have successfully lobbied Congress to force the Post Office to set aside a hundred years’ of pension liabilities to show it bankrupt.

            You must know that rural areas rely on post offices for more than Amazon-like packages.


    20. margie says:

      I don’t know why they left out the mailbox outside the postal finance station on Columbus between W. 94th and W.95th Street about a year ago. Many, many people including me had their mail stolen. In my case, none of my checks arrived where I sent them one month,m and it happened twice. I was told by the post office that they arrested some people after staking out the post office overnight.

    21. sam says:

      I would add for everyone that this is also a good time to find out if the people you send checks to accept electronic payments, or take the time to learn how to use your bank’s electronic payment system to make payments.

      I don’t like giving out my bank account number to other entities to “withdraw” money from my account (too much, at least theoretical, opportunity for someone to take too much money!), but I bank with Chase, and I use their payment system to pay all my bills “from” their online system. Almost all of them get transferred electronically, but even in the rare instance where a payee doesn’t accept electronic payments, Chase will literally cut a check and mail it. This has a few advantages over my writing the check:

      1 – the check is tracked by the bank from the time it is cut to when it is cashed,

      2 – the bank knows from the outset the amount that should be paid, so even if someone tried to alter it, that alteration would get noticed

      3 – because the entire check is electronically printed, I don’t even know if the kind of alterations discussed here are possible

      4 – the bank is mailing the checks from their facility, so no blue mailboxes for fishing

      (minor bonus – you don’t have to pay postage)

      While I use chase, I’m fairly certain that most major banking institutions offer similar services.

      The fact that the bank will cut a check if necessary also helps in situations where, say, a landlord will refuse to take electronic payments because they are being “old school”. You just have to make sure that you’re having the bank send the check enough days in advance – they will usually tell you how much time they take to process.

    22. Che says:

      Of course, take your mail into the USPO (I stopped using street mailboxes long ago, and frequent UWS post offices on business), but we have a problem here: How and why can people in a lovely community, who are waiting in line for service, viciously, vocally attack clerks and staff…because of a ten- or fifteen-minute wait?? I’m on the same line glad to be there until IT happens, when life becomes horror and the staff struggle to maintain dignity for all customers.