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Retrofitted Mailboxes That Thwart 'Fishing' Scams Installed Uptown

By Carolina Pichardo | February 28, 2017 6:58pm
 The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said seven retrofitted mailboxes were distributed in Washington Heights and Inwood.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said seven retrofitted mailboxes were distributed in Washington Heights and Inwood.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The U.S. Postal Inspection Service plans to install a host of tamper-free mailboxes uptown in a bid to prevent future “mail fishing” scams, officials announced.

The seven new mailboxes — which have been retrofitted to seal shut the customary "snorkel," or drop-down opening and replace it with a slot for letters — were installed at sites throughout Inwood and Washington Heights.

The sites include:

• 158 Hillside Ave.
• 242 Nagle Ave.
• 144 Seaman Ave.
• 239 Seaman Ave.
• 90 Vermilyea Ave.
• 267 Dyckman St. 
• 660 Fort Washington Ave.

Although they look like a traditional mailbox, the retrofitted postal boxes "don't have a snorkel to pull down," said Donna Harris, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

She added that the new mailboxes are designed to deter thieves from "fishing" for mail by rigging adhesive tape or other devices into the opening and then retrieving it to hunt for cash or checks.

U.S. Postal Inspection officials said the Manhattan mailboxes are currently being rolled out and that they have already installed a significant number of new mailboxes in The Bronx.

Harris wouldn’t comment on how long ago this retrofitting work launched in Northern Manhattan, but said the agency “continues to install the boxes to ensure their safety and the safety of the U.S. Mail.”

Harris said they're still working on the exact timeline to roll out more retrofitted mailboxes in upper Manhattan.   

Police arrested three people in connection to mail fishing scams in Washington Heights late last year, and arrested another two in Inwood last month.

In Harlem, victims reported losing up to $1,900 in mailed checks that were stolen through mail fishing scams and cashed by thieves.

Harris said residents can take additional steps to protect their mail, such as placing mail in mailboxes shortly before the final pick-up, or bringing them directly to a post office branch.