COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – If you have a check to mail, you may want to bring it inside your local post office. According to Sgt. Jane Edenfield, who is over the financial crimes unit of the Columbus Police Department, there has been a recent uptick of criminals stealing checks from the big, blue mailboxes operated by the United States Postal Service in Columbus. This has been going on since October, Edenfield said, and shows no signs of letting up.

“I’ll get a break, tapering off, and then I’ll get hit with another batch,” she said.

Residential mailboxes have long been targeted, as well, although there has been no recent increase of this in Columbus.

“Once they get that account routing number, they don’t do just one check,” Edenfield said. “They do five, six, seven checks, $5,000 apiece.”

The Columbus Police Department has been receiving two or three reports of stolen checks per day.

“They take the account routing number off the bottom of the check and print a new check, and then they solicit people on social media to give up their bank account information for a kickback,” Edenfield said. “… “They’re taking a $100 check and making it $8,000.”

This sort of crime is happening all over the country. The criminals responsible for cases in Columbus mainly come from the area stretching from Columbus to Atlanta, Edenfield said. The Columbus Police Department has arrested seven or eight people in connection with the crimes since October.

“As the cases keep coming in, we just rearrest them and they get released and keep on doing it,” Edenfield said. “It’s very lucrative.”

Legal consequences for stealing mail include jail, probation and restitution.

“It wreaks havoc,” Edenfield said. “These businesses are having to close their accounts and get new ones, and they’ve got venders to pay.”

Edenfield said she does presentations on fraud around town. She can be reached by calling the Columbus Police Department’s non-emergency number, (706) 225-3205.