Editor's note: This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. Nov. 2.
North Canton police are investigating a string of thefts in the city in which suspects are taking outgoing checks from residents' mailboxes.
Police Chief Stephan Wilder said today the suspects are targeting mailboxes that have the red flag up (indicating they have outgoing mail), then taking any checks from inside the mailbox. The suspects then get the victims' bank account information and use that to cash the checks at a branch bank where the victims do not frequent or a branch where their account was not activated.
"If the culprits didn’t find a check in there, they discarded the mail, just threw it out and left it on the ground," Wilder said. "They really were just looking for an outgoing check or something like that where they could get the signature and the account information off of it.”
They'll deposit only half the money into the account and pocket the other half in what Wilder calls a "half back."
So far, seven North Canton victims in the southwest section of the city are out a total of about $7,000. Reports started coming in last week, he said.
And there's more to the scam.
The suspects are replacing the victims' mail with a flier advertising flu shots.
"By having a flier — when they're approached by a resident or another citizen or a walker, or maybe even by law enforcement — it could have been that they’re just using that as a ruse.”
Wilder said the department's detective bureau had contacted law enforcement in Perry and Jackson townships as well as the city of Canton, and none has seen similar incidents yet.
North Canton police have photographs of two suspects and the suspects' vehicle they obtained from bank surveillance and ask that anyone who recognizes the pair call the police. The suspects are an older, balding white man and a white woman with blond hair, driving a white Lincoln Town Car.
If anyone is charged in the case, they could face counts of theft (possibly a federal offense because the U.S. government is involved when they steal from a mailbox) and identity fraud.
Wilder advises anyone who thinks they may be a victim of this scam to call their local law enforcement agency. The North Canton Police Department can be reached at 330-499-5911.
"If they think this has happened to them, especially in city of North Canton, of course contact us so that we can speak with them and interview them and as part of our investigation," Wilder said. "They may not find out that they are a victim until they go to the bank."