Two people in the Nipomo area have reported their checks have been "whitewashed," meaning their checks were changed and cashed for a larger amount by someone else.
Both people say they dropped their checks off at the post office in Nipomo and went about their day. It wasn't until they were hit with a hefty bank statement did they find out they were victims of fraud.
"Someone got a hold of my envelope and my check before it ever reached the credit card company," said Nipomo resident and fraud victim Katie Voice.
Voice says she dropped off her check for her credit card payment at the Nipomo post office earlier this month and was shocked when she saw a different version of her check on her bank statement a few days later.
"They whitewashed the check, added in their name with a $2,000 amount, forged my signature and then cashed it at a bank. The bank that cashed its information was also whitewashed," Voice explained.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says Voice's report is the second check forgery report they've received recently. In both cases, the mailed checks were stolen, altered and later cashed.
Both checks were mailed from the Nipomo post office.
As Voice waits for her money to get refunded from her bank, she hopes this serves as a warning to others.
"In this day and age of COVID, sadly there are people very desperate and there are criminals getting more and more crafty; so we need to be thinking about what could happen and how to protect ourselves," Voice said.
The U.S. Postal Service says there are several ways to protect yourself from mail fraud:
· Deposit outgoing mail into a blue collection box before the final pick up of the same day of deposit. Check the pick-up schedule posted on the box to ensure your mail will not sit in the box overnight or over the weekend.
· Report glue, tapes or any sticky substance on the mailbox to your local post office and to postal inspectors.
· Immediately report any suspicious activity at any mail receptacle to your local police.
The postal service says they take mail theft very seriously and recommend people report these incidents to their postmaster either online or over the phone at 877-876-2455.
Both check forgery cases are still under investigation by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.
Those found guilty of check fraud can be facing misdemeanor or felony charges.
If charged as a felony, check fraud can be punishable by up to three years in jail.