BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - People who still mail items from their home mailbox are warned to be careful because thieves love snail mail.
Robert Arms, co-owner of Rocco's Poboys on Drusilla Lane in Baton Rouge, was busy taking in orders Thursday morning, but it was an outgoing payment that proved problematic for him.
"I walked in this morning, checked the bank account for here and saw they had an amount that wasn't an amount I wrote the check for," Arms said.
He had put the check in his mailbox at home in the Kenilworth subdivision a few days ago, but someone got to it before the mailman.
"They took that check, went to Walmart in Denham [Springs] and bought some stuff - computers and tablets and what not," Arms explained.
If you insist on using your mailbox to pay bills, consider one that locks or retrofit your existing one with a lock. Homeowners are urged to remember that the raised flag indicating there is mail to be collected is exactly what criminals are looking for.
"They just ride down the street; they go to those boxes where the flags are up," said Bennett Blackledge, branch manager at Gulf Coast Bank and Trust. "They grab the mail out of it and they start opening up and they take those checks and they alter them."
Blackledge said he deals with mail fraud and identity theft far too often. He sees more cases during the summer months.
"A lot of things going on, more purchases, people traveling and I think your activity is a lot heavier and your criminal activity is heavier, too," he explained.
He recommends handling as much of your business as possible online. Most sites are secure. Checking balances and records is easier, too.
"It is a lot safer than someone coming through a subdivision and pulling mail, to have those things sent to you electronically, pay them online yourself," Blackledge added.
Arms said he's not giving up the convenience of his mailbox, but he is watching it much more carefully.
"Be aware, be vigilant [and] if you see something that's not right, it doesn't look right, call somebody. Call the police. That's what they're there for," he said.
The Baton Rouge Police Department is handling Arms' case of check fraud. Detectives said the woman who used that stolen check was caught on camera. They are working to get that image to the media.