Experts serve new warning to people who pay bills by mail

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's that time of the year, bills are rolling in from holiday gift giving. Scammers and thieves are aware that millions of dollars are in transit and experts have a new warning for those who pay bills the old-fashioned way.

Some folks are uncomfortable putting their financial information in cyberspace, believing sending payment in the mail is safer -- but dropping a check in the mail is not a foolproof way of avoiding being scammed.

Sharon Williams learned a valuable lesson when she used the old-fashioned way of paying a bill.

"I sent it in. I was real busy. I was getting ready to go out of town and never thought anything of it until I got this letter,” said Williams, who received a letter from the postal inspector nine months later.

An official letter telling her that a bill she had sent in April was found in Topeka, among a batch of stolen mail discovered in November. Often times, stolen checks are whitewashed, made out to other people and cashed. Or the bank information is used to buy things or access the account.

"I filled out a questionnaire to see if there were any other bills that could be taken at the same time. I had to go on to my bank statement and make sure there wasn't something that wasn't legitimate," Williams said.

Thankfully, Williams account was not affected, but experts call check scams a growing epidemic.

The Better Business Bureau reports as many as 500,000 people are victims of fake check scams each year, with an average loss of $1,200 per victim.

"I feel like I have learned a lesson form it because now every bill is suspect,” Williams said. “To other people, just be careful."

A representative from The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says someone was taken into custody at the time the mail was discovered. That case is still being investigated and no federal charges have been filed.

If you feel you have been a victim of mail theft or mail fraud, call the United States Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455.

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