NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD are warning New Yorkers that thieves are fishing checks out of collection mailboxes.

CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reports the scam is giving them access to peoples’ bank accounts.

Police said it has become an issue in East Harlem as in the last few weeks thieves have somehow been able to pull mail out of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox on East 116th Street and Third Avenue and another one in front of the post office on East 124th Street.

Police said the criminals changed the amount printed on the checks and cashed them in for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars.

Police said the recent collection box thefts are part of a citywide pattern with other mailbox thefts happening in the Bronx and Queens. Police believe organized gangs may be behind it all.

East Harlem resident Frank Rivera thinks it’s much more simple than that.

“There a lot of people in the shelter system. A lot of people that are starving, can’t find no jobs, so they feel they need to go in the mailbox and start fishing for checks, and it’s sad and I’m not saying it’s right to do that, but you need to blame the economy,” said Rivera.

The New York Division of the Postal Inspection Service said they are investigating the string of mailbox thefts and suggest people always double-check outgoing mail goes into the mailbox before walking away.

The Postal Inspection Service said they are working to stop these thefts by installing newly designed mailboxes that make it impossible for thieves to fish for mail.

Police and the Postal Inspection Service urge anyone who believes they were a victim of mailbox theft to notify them.

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