Stolen Check Sales Ramping Up Across the Dark Web
Mail theft is becoming an increasing problem across inner-cities in America, where checks are now being stolen out of postal boxes and sold on the dark web, according to reporters at NBC10 Philadelphia.
One particular postal collection box in the city of Philadelphia seemed to have been a primary target for thieves who are selling checks on the darknet so the buyer can either alter the payee or create new checks based on the information they contain. In some cases, the checks were never cashed; in others where they were — the “pay to” recipient having been changed.
The leaders of one Philadelphia church, after discovering they had been victims of this type of mail theft, performed an audit to discover many checks had been written in their name and cashed out by fraudulent recipients.
Two checks found for sale on a darknet market, purchased by a consumer group and returned to their owners. Source: NBC10 Philadelphia
The number of stolen checks for sale on the darknet increased 100% between December of 2021 and January of 2022, according to David Maimon, Director the Evidence-Based Research Group at Georgia State University. Maimon’s team monitors 60 markets and other sites on the dark web, where he found personal checks go for an average of $150 and business checks as much as $250. He also noted that Arrow Keys – used by the US Postal Service as a ‘skeleton key’ to unlock mail receptacles across much of America – sell for as much as $7,000 on the darknet.
Although electronic checks and other payment methods are becoming increasingly popular, US citizens still mail out over 2.3 billion checks per year, according to digital payments providers at BillGO.
To minimize the chances of checks and other mail being stolen, the US Postmaster General recommends only depositing mail into postal collection boxes before the last collection time of the day, or else to go to a post office itself to send the mail.
A quick search for relevant terms on the darknet market search engine Recon revealed no actual personal or business checks being listed for sale as such, but sometimes customer address and bank routing number information (key components of a check) were included as part of “fullz” packages, used primarily for identity theft.
Found for sale across many darknet markets are mail and check-cashing fraud “how-to” guides, which go for as little as $2.