LaBELLE — It has been reported that the blue drop-off mailbox box outside the LaBelle Post Office at the corner of Washington Ave and Main Street was vandalized.
Post Office personnel also believe that during the July 4 weekend and again in late July, individuals had attempted to tamper with the outside mailbox. On Aug. 19, it was reported to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office that the back of the box had been pried open and mail could be seen inside. The LaBelle postmaster was contacted and arrived minutes later to make arrangements to secure the mail items that were in the mailbox.
Hendry investigators have eight open cases of for fraud/forgery, all around this same period of time. While post office personnel do not know how much or what mail items were taken, investigators believe it is related.
Aside from the obvious prying of the mailbox, the method used to steal your mail is called “fishing.” This is not a new technique, nor is it unique to Hendry County.
Sheriff Steve Whidden said: “‘Fishing’ is a creative way to get your personal information. Then, thieves use sensitive information like that contained on a check to make counterfeit checks.” They may steal credit card information, Social Security numbers and other important personal facts.
Postal Inspector Blanca Alvarez said: “If customers confirm their mail was stolen, they should report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 or online at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/. Postal Inspectors will investigate all leads provided.” Currently, Hendry County investigators are working with those who believe they may be a victim of this crime and with the U.S. Postal Service investigators.
“I don’t want anyone to think the Post Office in LaBelle is not safe; I believe that it is,” said Sheriff Whidden. “But we do need to be aware of suspicious activity. If you notice something that does not appear right, call law enforcement right away.”
The Postal Service offers these tips to protect your mail from thieves:
• Use the slots at your local post office for outgoing mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.
• Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight. If you’re expecting checks, credit cards or other negotiable items, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
• If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
• If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
• Don’t send cash in the mail.
• Tell your post office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail.
• Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other’s mailboxes (as well as homes).
If you see a mail thief at work, or if you believe your mail was stolen, call law enforcement immediately, then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 (press 3).