Pelham PD warns local businesses of check scams

By ROBYN JAMES | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – The Pelham Police Department is warning people to be on the lookout for thieves who are busy scamming our local businesses by stealing checks out of business mailboxes without their knowledge.

The scammers will operate this scheme at all hours of the day and night, primarily in the industrial and business park areas of a busy community.

“These criminals are looking for paper checks in the mailboxes with the sole intent to steal them, use a washing technique to change the dollar amount, and get the money,” Pelham Detective Todd McCann said.

For example, they will steal a check written out in the amount of $150.00 and change the amount to $1,500.00. The business check will then be taken to a local bank and cashed, or deposited in a local ATM machine, so they can get cash back from the machine.

“We have seen a large increase in this crime, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the criminals take advantage of the fact that they can hide their identity by wearing a hat and a mask when committing these horrendous crimes,” McCann said.

Business owners need to be on the lookout and remain diligent to prevent them from falling victim to this crime. There are several steps a business owner can take to protect themselves and their mail.

“The most preventive method for local businesses to protect themselves is to not put checks in their business mailbox and take them directly to the post office instead,” McCann said.

Another method is to not encourage their customers to mail a check directly to their office location, but for the business to make available a post office (PO) box for customers to mail the checks.

“If businesses must use their business mailboxes to mail out checks, they really need to consider writing in a big black marker “for deposit only” on the back of each check or place an inexpensive hidden camera around their business mailbox so they can regularly monitor it,” McCann added.

If you suspect this crime is happening in your area, please contact your local police or Sheriff’s department. Once a business has been victimized by this crime, it can take months to recoup the financial loss and taking some very simple and smart prevention measures can go a long way to prevent the crime from happening to their business.