RIDGEFIELD, N.J. -- You're in a rush, so you absently shove that postmarked check or cash envelope into an overflowing mailbox -- then you wonder why your grandson or other intended recipient never got their holiday gift.
Blame the "Santa Thieves" -- or even yourself, police in Bergen County say.
On the lookout for bandits who've been fishing envelopes filled with cash or checks from mailboxes, a Ridgefield police Sunday night found a nearly overflowing dropbox outside the main post office on Broad Avenue ( photo, above ).
"Someone could insert their hand and pull the envelopes right out," Deputy Police Chief Robert Meurer told Daily Voice.
Officers used a tool to shove the mound below the neck of the mailbox, out of reach. They covered the top with a garbage bag with a note: "Mailbox Full ... Do not Use. Ridgefield Police Department." Then they alerted post office workers of the problem Monday morning.
Dozens of borough residents and merchants have reported losing money at the time of year when a large number of checks and cash are sent as gifts or payments.
"Once stolen, the check is forged and cashed," said a borough resident who reported losing $2,500.
Some thieves are using weighted lines covered with reversed duct tape or rat-trap glue to fish out envelopes. Others tape pillowcases inside the mouths of mailboxes and later pull the sacks out like Santa Claus.
Leaving your envelope sticking out of an already-stuffed box eliminates the need for gadgets -- and asks for trouble.
Don't become a victim, police say. Play it safe.
“If you are mailing a check, please enter the Post Office to do so,” Ridgefield Police Lt. Jose Brito urged.
He also warned against placing any mail in a free-standing box at night or on a holiday or weekend, because it will end up sitting there awhile. More than anything, he said, don't try shoving envelopes into an already-stuffed box. Either wait or find or find another.
Ridgefield police ask that you call them immediately if you see someone fishing or tampering with a mailbox or sitting in a car parked for a long time near one: (201) 943-5210 .
You can also contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Hotline at (877) 876-2455 .