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In Houston, many of the stand-alone USPS have been removed (rather than retrofitted with the thin slot that ira mentioned.

Interesting, I haven't seen stand-along USPS drop boxes at other than the post office in a while but I haven't looked for them recently. Mailing greeting and Christmas cards from them was low risk. There was one where I worked but that was in an internal courtyard which required badge access.
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April 17th, put my check to the IRS (~$6k), voucher, etc. into an envelope, and put it in the drop box at my local post office. Check cleared on April 20th. Thought nothing more beyond that. Today I got a notice from the IRS that they did not receive my payment, and want the money plus interest/penalties.

I figure it's just a processing issue, so I go to my bank to verify the check cash date. I click on the image and see that a name in the To field that is not the US Treasury. So the check was stolen, altered, and apparently cashed or deposited by an individual. I've already got an inquiry open with the bank, the post office, and called the police. We'll see where that goes in the next 24 hours...

What's the best way to deal with the IRS now? Just pay the penalty? Is there a way to explain what happened and save the extra $100 in fees/inte/i>

There's not much you can do about the interest. As far as the IRS is concerned, they didn't get the money when due and you owe them for the time value of the delay. On the positive side, the interest rate is only 4%/year (increasing to 5% on July 1).

Any penalty should be eligible for abatement. If you haven't had any issues with the IRS in the last three tax years, you can request a First Time Abatement (FTA). You can do this over the phone (if you can get through) and is essentially automatic. If that doesn't work, you can probably get an abatement for reasonable cause if you lay out all the facts of your case (including any reports issued by the bank, police, post office, etc.).

Ira
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Many use return receipt requested to avoid the potential for IRS to deny receipt of the return or payment.

Crooks are out there. You can't be too cautious.
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Crooks are out there. You can't be too cautious.

Tell me about it. I'm shocked that this happened. It never once occurred to me that someone might steal envelopes out of a post office collection box. But for all I know, it could be an inside job by someone who figured out that small envelopes addressed to the US Treasury PO box around April 15th are likely to contain checks.

I am getting a rapid education into how check fraud is handled. So far I'm finding that the deposit bank bears responsibility for accepting an altered check. I've provided my bank with the carbon copy and I'm filling out affidavits as we speak.
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Thanks Ira!

In the meantime, I went ahead and paid the IRS/Treasury electronically today. We didn't have any luck getting a person on the phone, and figure it wasn't worth hours of our time to potentially save $60. I just want my $6100 back from the fraudster's bank!
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It is my understanding you can prevent this from happening by using:
https://www.irs.gov/
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It is my understanding you can prevent this from happening by using:
https://www.irs.gov/


Very true. I generally have a long standing rule of not letting external entities have tentacles into my accounts if I can avoid it. I typically prefer to use my bank's billpay system to PUSH payments, rather than sharing my account info and letting others draw from my account. I don't think a billpay PUSH is an option with the IRS, since you need to mail in payments with vouchers. I've done it this way for decades, just got burned by an unscrupulous individual this time.
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it could be an inside job

The minute the original poster said they dropped the letter to the IRS inside a Post Office drop box that's the first thing I thought of inside job. It would almost have to be. How much more secure can it be?

While we are on Post Offices when is the last time you received any help from a Post Office? Good luck (i.e.: missing mail, mis-delivered mail, lost mail, late mail, sweat stains on mail, missing meds, etc.)
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Very true. I generally have a long standing rule of not letting external entities have tentacles into my accounts if I can avoid it.

I can understand that rule. It works until someone steals one of your checks. One workaround is to open an account just for push payments. Then fund the account with the amount for a push payment when you need to make a payment. At other times, just keep the minimum amount in the account to keep it open.

PSU
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One workaround is to open an account just for push payments. Then fund the account with the amount for a push payment when you need to make a payment. At other times, just keep the minimum amount in the account to keep it open.

I do this but kind of have two(although I could make it just one). The push payment one is at Discover bank. I also have a Charles Schwab checking account for overseas ATM withdrawals although I am rapidly losing a need for this.
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While we are on Post Offices when is the last time you received any help from a Post Office?

My most recent useless problem from the post office was when I sent a normal first-class envelope that I mailed at my local post office. It was properly addressed to my friend who is located 3.4 miles from that post office. Unfortunately, my friend lives in the next town, so my post office must forward it to the main post office in Trenton, 41.6 miles from my post office, who must forward it to my friend's local post office and then to her address. It was not delivered, but returned to me because the mailbox where my friend lives is not in use. Or so the rubber stamp from the Trenton Post Office said. How did they know? In any case, they returned it to me. BTW: that mailbox is in use. My friend has gotten paper mail there before and she is still getting her bills.
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One thing I don't see mentioned here - and having nothing to do with taxes.

Have you considered closing the account? The fraudster now has your account and routing number. With those, they can print up checks to their heart's content. They can initiate transfers from your account. They can do all sorts of nefarious things.

I had a very similar thing happen to me a couple of years ago. Checks put in a mailbox outside a post office. But the checks never cleared. Next thing I know I'm getting a call from a branch manager of my bank about two suspicious checks being presented to be cashed. Together we stopped those, but another pair of checks had been cashed the day before.

Went through many of the things you've described. But when I went to my local branch to file the fraud claim, the manager there strongly suggested I close the account. And then she handled everything for me in terms of closing that and opening a replacement account.

Yes, there was a bit of a hassle that followed. But none of it cost me any further money out of the account. It was just some time.

Since it was my bank that cashed the forged checks, they reimbursed me for the loss - which wasn't a lot in the big picture - about $1200 or $1300. That did take a month or so.

--Peter
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One thing I don't see mentioned here - and having nothing to do with taxes.

Have you considered closing the account? The fraudster now has your account and routing number. With those, they can print up checks to their heart's content. They can initiate transfers from your account. They can do all sorts of nefarious things.


We're actually debating it, for that exact reason. Obviously that comes with some pain of having to make a lot of changes with direct deposits, might even mess up my highly automated billpay system.

The biggest reason I didn't already make the change is that I highly suspect we're dealing with a highly unsophisticated idiot who thought they could erase "US Treasury", write their own name on a check, and cash or deposit it somewhere with no repercussions. I suspect such a person does not do traditional banking, and probably wouldn't know what to do with a routing and account number.

I should hear back from my bank shortly as to where the funds were drawn. If I were a betting man, I suggest an unscrupulous check cashing store. We'll weigh that in making our decision.
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Have you considered closing the account?

That's the first thing we did when we found someone had written a fraudulent check against our account. We hated to do it since we had the account for roughly 45 years. But in the long run it was the best thing to do. Once closed there were a boat load of things to consider:

- Monthly draws from multiple IRAs for wife and I.
- Social Security payments for wife and I.
- Express Scripts for meds.
- Various life insurance.
- Health Insurance payments.
- Home and auto insurance.
- Lights, gas, water payments.
- Ordering checks with new routing and account numbers.

Then when you think you have covered all the basis about six months later you get dunned for a payment on your safety deposit box because they were drawing on the old account number rather than the new one.

It's all a pain the a*s just so some jack leg could get his nightly fix.

Good luck with your situation.

Regards,

ImAGolfer
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it could be an inside job

The minute the original poster said they dropped the letter to the IRS inside a Post Office drop box that's the first thing I thought of inside job. It would almost have to be. How much more secure can it be?


USPS drop boxes aren't very secure. About 3-4 years ago there were a string of robberies from drop boxes in northern NJ. The post office responded by removing the hinged door and replacing it with a thin slot. Now you can't deposit anything thicker than about 1/2" in the slot.

Ira
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USPS drop boxes aren't very secure.

Some thieves have been known to stuff the drop boxes with cardboard to prevent letters from dropping very far into the box.

Some people (not the OP of this string) are not careful. Attempting to mail a letter the day after a Monday holiday, letters were sticking out of the outside drop boxes at the Post Office. I took my letter inside. The outside drop boxes are only used when they aren't full and there is at least one more pickup on that day.
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But when I went to my local branch to file the fraud claim, the manager there strongly suggested I close the account.

Sometimes that's nearly automated. A few years ago, I had a bogus telephone charge--for an outlandish amount of money from a phone company (itself entirely innocent of this) with which I hadn't had an account for decades--on my credit card.

I called my bank, which was the one issuing the card, and the lady's almost automatic response was to cancel the card entirely and issue me a new one. All the outstanding charges but the bogus one were carried over to the new card. No rigamarole about trying to reverse/cancel the particular charge and protecting the account more.

A short bit of hassle for my wife and me, but sometimes the Gordian knot solution is the more efficient one.

Eric Hines
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irasmilo:

OP: {{{it could be an inside job}}}

"The minute the original poster said they dropped the letter to the IRS inside a Post Office drop box that's the first thing I thought of inside job. It would almost have to be. How much more secure can it be?

USPS drop boxes aren't very secure. About 3-4 years ago there were a string of robberies from drop boxes in northern NJ. The post office responded by removing the hinged door and replacing it with a thin slot. Now you can't deposit anything thicker than about 1/2" in the slot."


Smash and grab of the old, blue USPS has been a problem for more than 3-4 years. In Houston, many of the stand-alone USPS have been removed (rather than retrofitted with the thin slot that ira mentioned.

I almost never use a stand-alone USPS drop box, unless it is one in an office building or a US Post office, and most of those are slots in a solid wall and not a stand-alone box.

Regards, JAFO
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In Houston, many of the stand-alone USPS have been removed (rather than retrofitted with the thin slot that ira mentioned.

Interesting, I haven't seen stand-along USPS drop boxes at other than the post office in a while but I haven't looked for them recently. Mailing greeting and Christmas cards from them was low risk. There was one where I worked but that was in an internal courtyard which required badge access.
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I click on the image and see that a name in the To field that is not the US Treasury. So the check was stolen, altered, and apparently cashed or deposited by an individual.

Ever since I heard about Check Washing I've only used gel pens for writing checks.

Based on recent ink security studies, we highly recommend that you use a gel pen, like the Uniball 207 that uses gel ink that contains tiny particles of color that are trapped into the paper, making check washing a lot more difficult. The pen sells for about $2.

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/02/check_washing...
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Fountain pen ink used to contain materials that would fluoresce under black light. That made altered writing easier to detect.

Apparently those materials are not present in most ballpoint pen ink.
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Many use return receipt requested to avoid the potential for IRS to deny receipt of the return or payment


I've done that and never got a receipt. Most things over the last few years seem permanently broken. In my case they did eventually receive the return and processed it but no receipt was ever returned to me.
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Yes, post cards get lost in the mail or discarded with the junk mail.

E-filing may be more reliable these days.
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Many use return receipt requested to avoid the potential for IRS to deny receipt of the return or payment

I've done that and never got a receipt.


We've done that for decades and never failed to get a receipt. We just got one for our Q2 estimated.

--fleg
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