Homeowner "shocked" by stores accepting altered checks

Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:18:07 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 14 2013 08:24:32 PM CST

A Wichita homeowner says he's shocked after finding two checks, stolen out of his mailbox, had been rewritten and accepted at separate locations.

A thief stole his mail a few weeks back and he didn't find out until his credit card company called saying he missed his payment.

"I went and got my check book and knew I'd paid it," Carl Cooper said. "But then the Home Owners Association sent out a note telling us that there had been a mail theft in the area. From time to time there's notice of mail theft here, I've never been hit before."

Cooper, who lives in the Whitetail residential neighborhood in Wichita, tells Eyewitness News there were six checks in his mailbox at the time. He had put them out an hour before the mailman usually came to pick them up. He found out this week that two of those checks have been used for other purposes.

"One of them wasn't as bad," said Cooper. "The check was written for Discover Card and the person just scribbled over it 'Dillons'. They didn't change the amount."

It was written for $40. A Dillon's spokesperson said the check was used in the fuel center, but should never have been accepted. She said their policy is to never accept any altered check.

The second check (pictured above) was what shocked Cooper the most.

"This here is my gas bill paid to Kansas Gas Service," he said. "The thieves changed this to "Kwik Shop." It was originally written for $30.10 and they changed it to $252.44, so they must have made a large purchase. They squeezed in this little area in words, Two-hundred and Fifty-two-dollars. Didn't even change the cents."

Those words and numbers also written on top of the original text.

A spokesperson from Kwik Shop said it is company policy not to accept two-party , starter, counter checks or any altered check. Customers must present an acceptable form of ID when attempting to cash a check, the spokesperson said.

As for Cooper, he can't believe the two checks were accepted because of the number of red flags the clerks should have noticed.

"If someone comes in with a free check that's not in a book, and they're using a social security card instead of an ID, they drive down to the store and don't have a photo ID?" said Cooper. Not to mention the fact that the words are written over the original text.

He has since shut down that checking account and gotten an affidavit from the bank claiming that checks from that account have been stolen.

"Another thing I learned because we have a computerized system, when they process the checks they are going to process them no matter what," said Cooper. "Now that I've closed the account, the computer is going to kick it out as insufficient funds so then I will be *dinged* for non-payment. So I'll have to pay those fees with the exception of filing the police report, and then being forgiven for those extra fees."

He says it's been a headache, but he's glad he caught it early. A police report had already been filed for the area because of other mailbox thefts, so he added his name onto the report and made a copy. Police told him all you can do to keep from being a victim of mail theft is by dropping off mail at a secure location or paying your bills online.

Here's some tips from the USPS:

  • Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders
  • Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you're expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items. If you won't be home when the items are expected, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.

  • Always deposit your mail in a mail slot at your local post office, or hand it to your letter carrier

  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes. If you observe a mail thief, call the local police immediately and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.