We moved to Mercer Island in January. In February we realized our mail had been stolen. The thieves had taken checks that we’d never requested, sent by our mortgage company, and gone shopping.
Old, theft-prone mailboxes.
We only found out after we started getting collection notices from places we’d never been. Turns out the ****ers had written checks totaling almost $2,000.
We called the police, who said it happens all the time on Mercer Island. Our mailman said the same. Richard Sprague wrote about having had his mailbox vandalized. That’s when I started noticing how many locking mailboxes there are on the Island.
Circling the Wagons
We figured if we got an individual locking mailbox, the thieves would just take our neighbors’ mail. Our neighbors had been thinking of getting a common locking mailbox for a while. So we decided to go for it. The epic story of getting and installing the common mailbox is coming in Part 2. But first,
If It Happens to You
Here’s what we did to contest fraudulent charges from mail theft:
- Report the mail theft and get a police report.
- Don’t panic and, fight the feelings of anger at the *****s who stole your mail.
- Contact your bank and credit card companies to figure out the extent of the damage.
- Complete the identity theft affidavit from the ftc.
- Write a letter to the collection agency, with a copy of your ID theft affidavit, a copy of each collection letter, and your police report. Include check numbers, dates and amounts. This ends up being a pretty weighty package for each collection notice. Write everything down in a spreadsheet for your records.
- Go to the bank and get everything notarized (Bank of America on Mercer Island does this for its customers for free).
- Go to the post office and send that package certified mail.
- Rinse and repeat steps 4-6 for every bad check or credit charge.
My most important advice is be speedy and keep records. Take action before things affect your credit, and keep a spreadsheet with all the creditors’ names, check numbers, dates of purchase, purchase amounts, and collection case numbers. Also note your contact history with them. Even a few bad checks are a lot to keep track of but having your own record is worth it.
The Good Thing Is
By doing this, we were not responsible for any fraudulent charges.
The Bad Thing Is
It took us months and plenty of lost time and stress to take care of all the claims. And most of this theft is so small that no agency goes after the thieves in earnest- not the local police station, not the bank, not the FTC. But someone did recently get caught for mail theft. I hope it was the ones who took our mail.
The new mailbox. A little less charming, but theft-proof.
I’ll write about how we picked it and put it up in Part 2.