May 22, 2024

St. Louis County couple’s mortgage check stolen from postal box and altered

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A St. Louis county couple is sending out a warning after almost losing thousands of dollars due to check fraud. They thought they were simply paying their mortgage when they got a call from their bank saying a thief had gotten ahold of the check and tried to cash in.

Ken and Karol O’Brien are beginning the new year thankful a crafty crook’s plans got intercepted by a watchful bank teller who noticed something just wasn’t right.

“It’s kinda scary. It makes you a lot more aware,” the couple said.

The O’Briens couldn’t believe it when they got a phone call a day after Christmas.

“I said ‘please stop it’,” Ken O’Brien responded.

It was a representative from PNC Bank telling him a man tried to cash a $2,400 check with his signature. The O’Briens say the man showed an ID and a debit card in an attempt to prove the check was intended for him.

“She told me his name and the amount and I said ‘No.’ I said ‘I have not done anything with this person and did not write them a check’,” he explained.

They wrote the check to pay their mortgage. They placed it in a blue post office box. The Obriens believe someone stole it and committed what’s called check washing — a crime where a crook obtains a legitimate check and then washes out the details to steal someone’s money.

In this case, the watchful teller noticed something out of the ordinary.

“The numbers, the date and all of that are my handwriting. The ‘pay to’ handwriting and the amount of the dollars is different handwriting than mine,” Ken O’Brien added.

The thief nearly doubled the check but he didn’t get the goods.

“She said, ‘Well he got a bit nervous and he left after I started questioning him’,” O’Brien said.

So that it doesn’t happen to you, experts recommend dropping off your mail inside the post office.

They say to always retrieve your mail as soon as you can and when you write a check, use a gel pen. Also, routinely monitor your bank accounts online.

If not for that attentive teller, the O’Brien’s could’ve been out thousands of dollars.

“For him to work this hard to take care of our house and for someone to simply go do that, it just makes you very angry and upset,” Karol O’Brien said.

“I think I’m going to go to automatic withdrawal,” Ken O’Brien added.

The couple said their bank is in possession of the check and the bank’s fraud department is now investigating.

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