Thieves still like stealing paper checks, police on Long Island say

Authorities in Suffolk County are warning residents about a scam known as check-washing. Thieves steal a paper check, change the amount and the payee, and then cash it in. 

"In one case, a check was changed to $52,000," Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said.

Since August, the fraud has affected more than 40 unsuspecting residents in the Dix Hills, Huntington, and Melville communities, officials said. Criminals are finding innovative ways to take advantage of the accessibility of mail and steal from people.

Authorities released surveillance video showing a thief stealing a check out of a mailbox. 

"The scam mostly involves individuals removing mail containing checks in personal mailboxes both incoming and outgoing," Harrison said. "Sometimes the mail is stolen from the U.S. Postal Service mailboxes."

Officials offer theft-prevention tips including switching to online banking from a secure computer instead of mailing checks from your mailbox. People should also avoid regular dye-based ink that can easily be washed.

"Use indelible black gel ink, check bank activity frequently, retrieve mail right away," Harrison said.  Unlike other scams, this impacts everyone, regardless of their age. Investigators have tied cashed checks to the Brooklyn area and out of state.

Police ask anyone who believes they may be a victim to call 911.