With our bank accounts, credit cards and Social Security numbers vulnerable on the internet, crooks who fish bill payments out of mailboxes to doctor and cash the checks seem downright quaint in their approach. If not swiping envelopes from personal mailboxes, they’ll drop lines into one of the big blue street-corner mailboxes with a bottle smeared in adhesive on the other end, or perhaps the sticky kind of mousetrap. They’ll pull out envelopes by the handful and go to town stealing gift cards and checks.

It may be quaint but it can compromise the bank accounts of dozens of unwitting victims at a time. It also seems to be spreading. In Boxford the week before last, police warned that U.S. Postal Service mailboxes in the West and East villages “have been compromised,” sometime between mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Jan. 28, and the following morning. Residents who used the mailboxes to send bills were advised to monitor their bank accounts.

Similar thefts have been detected in other Massachusetts towns, including Wellesley, according to police blotters.

The Postal Service is working to put a stop to it all, both in hunting the criminals behind these particular thefts and also by replacing mailboxes with the kind that only allow you to slip in a single letter. A post office spokeswoman speaking to the Boston Globe described those as “security enhanced collection boxes.”

Whatever they’re called, we clearly need more of them. In the meantime, everyone should take caution in where they leave mail and in noting the collection times on mailboxes they use. Despite their convenience, the big blue mailboxes aren’t always safe.

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