Mail theft affects water system payments

Published 9:28 pm Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bobi Little was concerned when she didn’t find any mail in the box at the Pike County Water Association on Feb. 3

“The mail usually runs between 12 and 1,” said Little, the assistant manager. “I went out about 1:30 ad the mail wasn’t out there. I went back later that day and it still wasn’t there.”

On Friday morning, Feb. 4, Little called the postal route carrier. “She told me, ‘Bobi I put your mail in the box in a rubber band.’” And Little’s next call was to the Troy Police Department, and employees at the Water Association worked late into the night Friday preparing letters to the group’s 3,800 customers warning them the mail had been stolen.

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“Usually, between the first and the 10th, every day we get 100 to 200 payments in the mail,” Little said.

But which customers’ payments were included in the Feb. 3 mail is a mystery that will continue to unfold.

“Pretty much all we do everyday is answer the phones with people calling to ask if we’ve received their payment,” Little said. “Some we have, some we haven’t.”

Because of the theft, the Water Association is waiving late fees on payments this month, Little said. And, officials are making some changes to the payment system.

“We’re going to get a post office box, but for right now, the carrier is honking when she gets here and we get the mail from her,” Little said.

The theft is cause for alarm, say local law enforcement officials.

“Anytime that happens you should be concerned,” said Sgt. Benny Scarbrough of the Troy Police Department. Police are investigating the crime, which is a federal offense.

However, authorities say customers may be best line of defense. All local banks have been notified of the theft, and some are working with customers to address stop payment fees, if necessary.

Scott Sanders, vice president and operations manager for Troy Bank and Trust, said water association customers who suspect their payments were included in the stolen mail bundle should be vigilant for signs of identity theft for the 12 to 24 months.

“We encourage you to review your account statements vigilantly for the next 12 to 24 months and immediately report any suspicious activity or suspected identity theft to your financial institution,” he said in a statement. Individuals also may place a fraud alert on their Social Security number by calling the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Line at 1-800-269-0271.

Credit reports can be obtained from Equifax, Experian or Trans Union. And, the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline can be reached toll-free at 1-877-438-4338.

“If you see that someone tries to cash your check, please call the police or call us,” Little said.