What began with a $1 payment to her credit card company turned into a loss of $1,000 and months of hassle for Ana Warner, 80.
In November 2021, the retired teacher and Illinois resident mailed a check made out for “$1.00” to “ALL Rewards” for a Loft store charge using the company’s ALL Rewards credit card. Somewhere en route from her former apartment complex’s mailbox in Missouri to the credit card company in San Antonio, the check was stolen. The interceptor added a few more zeros to the amount, changed the recipient to “Autumn Dicks” and deposited the check at a Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco.
Still a few days away from receiving her next Social Security check, Warner lost $1,000 from her checking account, which was overdrawn. “I was cleaned out,” she says. Though the vast majority of mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) — which handles about 129 billion pieces a year — arrives without incident, mail theft and mail carrier robberies are a growing problem around the U.S. It’s causing alarm and drawing more intense scrutiny from law enforcement and particularly the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
The agency sent out an alert about the increased threat of mail theft, noting that in 2022, 412 USPS letter carriers were robbed on the job, and 305 have been robbed in 2023. In 2022, there were 38,500 reports of incidents involving mail carrier robberies and mail theft, and more than 25,000 in the first half of this year. The uptick isn’t fueled by lone thieves and random porch pirates, explains Brendan T. Donahue, assistant inspector in charge at the USPIS Criminal Investigations Service Center. The most pernicious perpetrators work for “organized criminal groups that are extremely tech savvy and adept at countering law enforcement techniques,” he says.