BUTLER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Area law enforcement is issuing an alert Wednesday to area residents: Beware of thefts from U.S. Postal Service drop boxes.

They say there has been an increase in mailbox thefts in recent weeks. And those thefts can go unnoticed until a person gets a notice from their bank that a rather large check has bounced.

Investigators say the latest thefts from the United States Postal Service drop boxes took place at the Drums Post Office in Butler Township over the weekend, as well as the drop boxes outside the White Haven post office.

“Well, one of the things we believe is it’s an organized group. So it has not only happened in Butler Township but also happened regionally in White Haven and Carbon County. It’s through our whole area,” said Chief Bill Feissner of the Butler Township Police Department.

Feissner is working with federal postal service inspectors to track the thieves. He says area residents may not discover they have been victimized until it’s too late.

“What they primarily do is wash checks that they have stolen out of the mail. A lot of time that goes undetected for several weeks or months until the person realizes their check has been stolen that they mailed,” said Feissner.

Feissner says the thieves alter the checks and can make them payable to anyone for any amount of money.

“It’s a pretty simple process where they use chemicals to dissolve the ink on the checks and then rewrite it fraudulently and cash it,” said Feissner.

“One of the best things to do is take the mail into the post office to avoid using the collection boxes and also don’t use a collection box after hours, or on weekends where mail would be subject to being stolen,” advised Feissner.

The U.S. Postal service was in the hot seat on Wednesday at a congressional in Philadelphia.

The U.S.P.S has been the focus of public scrutiny in recent years after ongoing questions and concerns have been raised by the public about mail delivery services.

Concerns about the postal service in the area and across the nation are well documented. On Wednesday, lawmakers vowed to right the postal service ship.

“We’ve noticed in the past things were starting to be late. We weren’t getting certain things,” said Brian Cara of West Hazelton.

Eyewitness News has heard that over and over again from residents across the region in recent months.

People have not been happy with mail delivery service.

The postal service has blamed the problems with mail delivery service on a variety of factors, including lack of staff, challenges in hiring new staff, reduced funding, and a shake-up at the postal services designed to cut costs: Changes that appear to play major roles in what many describe as inadequate mail services.

A congressional committee held a hearing in Philadelphia on Wednesday to search for answers.

“I understand that these problems are difficult to solve but we have to make a lot more progress than we’ve made over the last couple of years,” said Senator Bob Casey.

“The answer is not just to pass. Oh you should use inline banking or get direct deposit. The answer is holding the U.S. Postal service accountable to do the job while also listening to these concerns for additional resources,” says Rep. Matt Cartwright.

Lawmakers recently passed legislation to increase funding and staff for the postal services, but problems continue to be seen.

For more information about mail thefts and how you can protect yourself go to the United States Postal Service’s website.