It’s a new incarnation of a crime that has worried people for years. And while the mail thefts start the way they always have—with criminals getting access to actual envelopes—the internet has added a twist: Criminals can sell stolen materials such as mailbox keys and checks in online forums, increasing the financial rewards. They also egg each other on by posting photos and videos of their exploits on social media apps and dark web sites.
David Maimon, a 43-year-old sociology professor at Georgia State University, has been investigating stolen checks, identity thefts, and bank account breaches for the past two years. He pays about 15 students to help him comb through thousands of social media channels, group chats, and dark web sites. Their efforts include compiling images of the checks for sale to look for patterns.