RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As the holiday season approaches, Raleigh police are warning people to keep an eye out for mailbox theft.

Senior Detective Bethany Machado says the thieves are targeting people, especially the elderly, who send cash or checks through the mail.

What are thieves after?

“As the holiday season approaches, crime always ramps up,” Detective Machado said.

She says it’s happening across the country.

Mailbox in Raleigh (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

“A lot of people, especially the elderly community, would write checks to the grandson for birthdays, for Christmas gifts, for stuff like that. They’re putting it in their mailboxes outside, they put that little red flag up, and then they’re being stolen,” the detective explained.

She said thieves may get to your mailbox before the mail carrier, and their plan is to deposit that money into their own account.

“They’ll wash it, they’ll alter it, they’ll take the original payee off,” she explained. “Sometimes they’ll change the dollar amount. If it’s high enough, they’ll leave the dollar amount.”

“You are not special, it can happen to you,” Detective Machado said. “And if you put your mail in the mailbox, chances are it will happen to you. So please don’t do that. Please don’t make it easy for them to victimize you.”

How do I send mail safely?

Police say the best thing you can do is to go to a post office, where you can drop off the mail inside.

Post office mailbox (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

“Actually go to the post office. Put the check in the mail, the birthday card, the Christmas card, in the interior post office box. That way no one will have a chance to grab it, and it will only go to the post office employees and out to where it goes.” said Detective Machado.

But when it comes to the blue mailboxes you see on the sidewalk, she says it’s best to avoid them.

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“Those are also being broken into. They’re very easy to break into because they’re not monitored in any way,” Detective Machado said.

Other scams to be aware of

Detective Machado says the elderly is also targeted for scams, and they should be on the lookout.

“There’s so many different kinds of scams that are going on from ‘my grandson is in jail,’ to ‘you won the publishers clearing house,’ to ‘pay taxes on this of you’ll go to jail,’ or ‘I have a warrant for you,'” she said. “Unfortunately we just can’t reach this community enough to tell them that this is all scams.”

Recently, police said people in the Raleigh area have also received calls from someone pretending to be a detective or a sheriff. The caller claims they have a warrant for your arrest and asks you to send them money.

“If you don’t know the number, if you don’t know the person, and it seems a little fishy, hang up right away,” Detective Machado said. “Call 911. Talk to us, ask us.”

She warns that some of these scams may seem compelling because they mention a family member or a legal issue.

“They will pull at your heartstrings, they know exactly what to say to make you feel this is real and to pull you into the scam,” she said.



Watch the video below to learn about a scam known as the ‘Grandparent Scam,’ where the scammer uses a loved one’s voice to get money.

Detective Machado also explained that scammers will ask for gift cards, or direct you to take money out of your bank account.

“They’re going to coach you on what to say to tell the bank employee so it raises no red flags, so you can get the money out and give it to them,” she explained. “That should be a huge red flag for you.”