FOX23 Investigates: What Tulsa mail thieves are after

TULSA, Okla. — Mailboxes taped off, closed or gone altogether in Tulsa... all part of a crime trend growing across the United States.

Gloria Daniel says she learned about the trend first hand, when a water bill check she had tried to mail in north Tulsa showed up days later for sale on criminal online marketplaces.

Criminologist David Maimon and his team of graduate students at Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group found Gloria’s check for sale, along with a host of others from companies and cities and just regular people.

The Research Group is through Georgia State University but clearly it can help protect people in any state.

“It’s not a group of adolescents stealing your mail,” Maimon says. “We’re talking organized crime groups who at the end of the day know exactly what they’re doing.”

“It’s very stressful, very stressful especially when you get up there and you don’t have an idea who’s doing this to you,” Daniel adds.

Criminals are washing the checks you put in the mail, changing things like names and dollar amounts to get exactly what they want.

In Gloria’s case, thieves washed her check making off with nearly $6,000 by the time her bank contacted her.

“It’s an invasion of my space and peace,” she says. “I’ve had to call social security payroll and let them know I no longer have this account.”

But now the internet has added another layer to the old crime. These checks can be sold on the dark web, paid in crypto currency. Criminals charge anywhere from $120-$150 for personal checks and $250 for business checks. For those “deal seekers” they even offer bulk pricing: $80 if you buy more than 100.

“We’re talking about 11,000 checks every month we find!” Maimon says.

But all this starts with those blue mailboxes. FOX23′s Janna Clark has been looking into incidents at three Tulsa Post Offices and will continue looking into this problem.

To see more FOX23 Investigations by Janna Clark click here.