SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Police in Massachusetts have warned residents and businesses not to place envelopes with checks inside of United States Postal Service collection boxes. Officials said the issue has popped up across the country.

Springfield detectives said they received recent reports of individuals breaking into the blue boxes to steal mail and cash any checks they’ve found after altering the payee’s name. People have also complained about thieves raising the amount on the check and syphoning the funds from their victims’ bank accounts.

Nexstar’s WWLP recently received a call from a resident of West Brookfield that a USPS blue drop box in their town had the drop door reduced in size to just large enough for letter sized envelopes. Previously, patrons had been able to deposit larger prepaid postage envelopes, but now they don’t fit in the slot. The change was made to prevent thieves from “fishing,” where they use an item (such as a mouse trap) tied with a string and covered in glue or other sticky substance and drop it into the box in an effort to capture and steal mail.

USPS Strategic Communications Specialist Steve Doherty said that these incidents have been an issue nationwide.

“The newer model box that you’re referring to is actually an upgrade to our Aviation Security Program that was first introduced in October of 2019,” said Doherty. “While the plan was to eventually replace all of the older style boxes with this new version, it would take some time given the thousands of blue collection boxes nationwide. Since these boxes also make the practice of mailbox fishing more difficult, scheduling priority was given to areas where those instances occurred.”

Springfield police advised local residents that have to pay a bill or send someone a check to preferably drop it off directly at the post office, use a mailbox at home, or pay the bill online if possible.

If you are a victim of mail theft or have any information about mail theft, contact your local police department or the USPS. Detectives also noted that residents should avoid making payments via gift card and be cautious of making transactions on sites such as PayPal from unreliable websites.