In the wake of a mailbox theft rampage in December, fraudulent transactions have now shown up in the bank accounts of several area residents and victims. Dan Stork tells of the repercussions…

During the night of December 20, many locked community mailboxes in the Morongo Basin were vandalized and emptied.  Later that day, opened mail from some of those boxes were found dumped miles away. After the dumped mail was sorted, the post office returned what they could to addressees or senders. One addressee, a homeowners’ association in Joshua Tree, then notified some members that checks they had written for annual dues had been stolen. Some residents, who had checks stolen in that theft, upon reviewing their bank activity, have found one or more withdrawals against their bank accounts that they had not made, at least one in amounts over $2000. Another account showed five withdrawals, totaling over $900. The check numbers were clearly fraudulent. Each transaction was labeled “Converted ACH.” Sheriff’s Deputy Leach told us that the thieves likely had checks printed, using the account number and bank routing number from a stolen check.  Other deputies are working on similar cases. On the bank’s advice, the account number was changed. The account holder is not liable for the losses—according to the bank, that will eventually fall on the businesses that accepted payment—in this case including Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Kohl’s. After changing account numbers, account holders who pay their bills online through electronic debiting of accounts, or who receive payments through direct deposit, will need to notify all involved of the change.

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