FOREST HILL, Md — There's a growing group in Forest Hill but membership is not a choice. It's all the people who have become victims of mail theft or tampering.
"I've had Christmas cards, envelopes, business payments that people for some reason are sending cash, never reaching me," said Lou Sharkey.
Lou Sharkey estimates he's missing hundreds, even a thousand dollars from separate mailings in just the last six months that were never delivered.
"I went to a different post office and mailed myself $50 in cash in an envelope and never got it," said Sharkey.
Pam Hricz said two $25 gift cards were stolen out of her sons' graduation cards over the summer.
"Two of the cards were tamped with and gift cards were actually taken out of them," said Pam Hricz. "They came with a little sticker on it saying it was damaged."
Dozens more people have posted on the Forest Hill Village Association private Facebook page, reporting cash up to $200 stolen or even movie theater gift cards. 22 reported what they expected to get in the mail that never arrived this year and it totaled around $1,500. Even more people reported their mail arriving damaged, like a Christmas card that Heidi Summers' friend sent her.
"When it arrived, it came in a plastic bag from the post office that said, 'Sorry for the damage. Things happen. It gets caught in machinery.' However, this looks like it was more than machine damage," said Summers. "I used to just worry about people riffling through my mail at the box because I know that's something that has been a concern. I never thought to worry that it was actually happening at the post office level so that actually does concern me."
Nothing was stolen. There were only photos and news clippings inside.
"I suspect they were looking for a gift card," said Summers.
She reported the problem to a postal inspector, as did Hricz and Sharkey. None of them have heard back.
"We got a form back that I did send to my brother-in-law [who sent the gift cards]. He filled it out bu he has not heard anything regarding that," said Hricz.
"I've gone as far as to move a PO box to another post office because of this situation," said Sharkey.
He said since then, he hasn't had an issue of theft at the office and he now tells all of his friends, family and customers not to send him money through the Forest Hill Post Office.
"Something needs to change here because it's gotten progressively worse," said Sharkey.
In a statement to WMAR-2 news, an agent with the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General said they take complaints regarding mail theft seriously and investigate them to the fullest and directed anyone who is a victim of mail tampering or theft to file the complaint at www.uspsoig.gov.
"With the holidays, people are sending money, gift cards and everything through the mail to their families and it's a shame we have to worry as to whether or not it's going to get to them," said Hricz. "We've been changing how we put in our cards so we put the open side down in first because it seems like they are opening the cards, able to get the gift cards or cash or anything out of them."
Summers recommends getting Informed Delivery. It's free to sign up for and you get digital preview of your mail. Other victims have been told not to use colored or decorated envelopes as it draws attention to your mail.