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Several People Left Out Thousands Of Dollars After Fraudsters Get Hold Of Checks Dropped In Blue Mailboxes In Park Ridge

PARK RIDGE, Ill. (CBS) -- This is a cautionary tale to heed before you even think about putting something in one of those blue mailboxes.

We've learned federal and local police are investigating a pattern of check fraud in northwest suburban Park Ridge. CBS 2's Tim McNicholas talked to several people who were out several thousand dollars.

It was supposed to be a routine ground ball for Park Ridge Baseball and Softball President Garry Abezetian.

"The whole thing is frustrating," Abezetian said.

He said he dropped off two checks in separate envelopes at the local post office.

"They came back to our bank as cleared and when I went back to look at them, it started when a parent said, 'I didn't get my refund," Abezetian said, "and that's when I started looking."

He discovered someone had somehow tampered with the checks.

He had written one check out to a local umpires' association, but someone pasted over that with a typewritten name — a name he'd never even heard.

On the check to the parent, the fraudsters even changed the dollar amount from $300 to nearly $2,000.

That all happened in August of last year, and Abezetian still doesn't know who did it.

"I filed a report with the post office, with the postmaster fraud line and never heard anything back on there," he said.

But Abezetian did start hearing from other people with similar stories.

Ingrid Czech said back in 2019, someone added a name to two checks she wrote – also in separate envelopes - after she dropped them in a familiar blue mailbox in Park Ridge.

"Then when we got onto this chatter - it happened to so many more people, but it was worse," Czech said.

That chatter was on a Facebook group where others in Park Ridge said they too were victims.

Park Ridge police told CBS 2 they've been assisting the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in a "major investigation."

An executive officer with Park Ridge police said they took eight reports last month alone — all from people who said their checks were altered after they mailed them.

"You have X amount of people that touch the mail, and it could be a non-employee, but try and get to the bottom of it," Abezetian said. "There's cameras everywhere."

The little league and Czech both worked with their banks to stop or reverse the payments. But there's been no such luck for Sue Costello.

"I was just shocked," she said.

Costello said she is still trying to get her money back after someone changed the recipient name on a check her husband mailed a couple months ago.

"It was a lot of money, and will I ever see it again? I don't know," Costello said.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service confirmed they are investigating. They also said they look into every report that comes into their office.

If you are a victim, they want to make sure you reach out to their office and not just the general postal service. You can contact their 24/7 hotline at (877) 876-2455.

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