Mailbox flags draw in thieves

SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013

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Waikato farmers are being advised to stay extra vigilant after cheques for up to tens of thousands of dollars have been stolen right from out of their mailboxes.

Thieves are targeting farmers' letterboxes containing outgoing mail, signalled by an upraised flag.

Sergeant Jared Thompson, of Thames, said it was all too easy for the thieves to take their pick. "They just have to look for boxes with the flag up and mail that's addressed to the IRD or something like that. Then they just ‘wash' the cheque until only the signature remains, and refill the details and cash it in."

Mr Thompson said he could not go into detail about the "wash", but it was cleanly done so bank staff wouldn't know the difference. He said properties in Thames Coast Rd, north of Thames, and further south toward Ngatea, were being hit and the thieves were cashing in cheques to the value of about $12,500 at a time.

Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton said similar thefts had happened before, and there was not much farmers could do but stay vigilant.

"The thing is, it's a very hard thing to prove and work through. It might be a month or six weeks down the track before you realise what's actually happening, once you get past the whole thing of whether you paid it, or it got lost, or anything like that," he said. "Try not to put the mail out until it's close to the scheduled pickup time".

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- Waikato Times

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