I don’t write many checks anymore as I do most of my bill paying online. However, there are many folks and businesses still paying bills by sending checks through the United States Postal Service. Nearly 150 billion pieces of mail went out in 2017 in the United States. Even as cybersecurity is a major issue for the financial industry, low tech crime continues to wreak havoc with people’s financial affairs and identity information, this in turn impacts banks and credit unions.
According to law enforcement officials, “mailbox fishing” is on the rise across the country. Yes, thieves are “fishing” for mail by using sticky rodent traps attached to a pole with a long string to pull mail out of the blue drop off mailboxes. As many as 20 envelopes at a time can be pulled up by doing this and might contain rent checks, gift cards, tax refund checks or money orders. The checks can then be “washed” of ink with chemicals and the thieves have a blank check to do whatever they want. Even if the envelopes don’t hold checks, they may contain documents with home addresses and Social Security data whereby an individual’s profile can be developed for the purposes of identity theft. Mailboxes have been targeted in New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado and California.
Perhaps it is some of your senior citizen members who continue to use checks and bank by mail for most of their financial transactions. This Friday, June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as designated by the United Nations. Financial abuse of older adults continues to rise especially in conjunction with the growing opioid crisis. An estimated $2.6 billion or more is lost annually by older Americans through elder financial abuse and exploitation. Credit union staffers can often be the first to be able to spot financial exploitation of their senior citizen members. Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network hosted a webinar on the importance of credit unions’ coordination with law enforcement and protective service agencies to protect their older members from financial exploitation. A helpful list of resources was also provided.
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