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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – A Norman woman says she’s feeling skeptical about using outdoor collection boxes at the post office after her mail was stolen. She only learned a check she mailed was taken by a thief after her bank notified her.

Dropping a homeowner’s association payment in the mail should be a carefree act. Well, that’s what Janis Young thought when she put a check into the USPS collection box at 200 36th Ave NW in Norman in mid-February.

Photo courtesy of KFOR, 200 36th Ave NW in Norman

“A few days later, I got a letter in the mail from Arvest saying insufficient funds for $8,500 and I thought, ‘that’s really weird,'” Young said.

A long visit to the bank followed, with her explaining to a rep that her check for the HOA dues had only been for $378.

The rep then told her the collection box she used had been broken into and they believed her check was tampered with and altered by a thief.

“It was a big ordeal, had to close my checking account, which means a lot of my direct deposits and so forth had to be all changed,” Young told KFOR.

United States Postal Inspector for the Fort Worth Division Paul Ecker said they are actively investigating the break-in. He said what could have happened is that Young’s check was “washed” by a thief that targeted the collection box.

“It’s where they lift the existing ink or write over it and put something on it that’s more favorable to them and then attempt to tender that,” he explained. “Some of them get somewhat sophisticated and they use a variety of chemicals that are available at your grocery store or automotive store and they’re actually able to lift the ink that is on the check.”

Ecker said people should not lose faith in the mail system.

“We encourage customers to mail as they normally would, but if they are at a post office and they feel any type of concern, trepidation about the security of a collection box, then go inside to deposit the mail or hand that to a carrier directly.”

Young has been a bit frustrated by the situation.

“You just begin to wonder, is anything safe anymore?” she said. “But I don’t want to be a cynic. I just like justice, and this is a felony. This is a scary situation.”

Ecker stressed that stealing even a single piece of mail can result in upwards of five years imprisonment and upwards of $250,000 in fines. He added that mail theft can be reported at or by calling 877-876-2455.