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Secret Service Sends Red Flag Warning About Mailing Checks

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FAYETTEVILLE — Every time you put a check in the mailbox, it is an open invitation for a crafty thief.

TheSecret Servicesays it put a stop to one such thief who victimized people from the Triangle to Fayetteville.

Secret Service agents say 39-year-old Gerald Hooks passed more than $100,000 in phony checks, and that he got the names and numbers right off checks taken out of mailboxes throughout the state.

Since October, outgoing mail, checks in particular, have been stolen out of mailboxes from neighborhoods in Cary, Raleigh, Fayetteville and other cities across the state.

"He'd take those checks he got from your account, put the information into a computer and generated a new check," says Secret Service agent Mike Casper.

Agents believe Hooks first used a phony check at a Circuit City store to buy a laptop computer, then used the computer to counterfeit more checks.

Detectives say Hooks cashed 32 checks at banks in different cities, in amounts up to $7,000.

"The programs are readily available to make these checks and are commercially available," Casper said. "And that's what the problem we have is."

With the new technology readily available, agents expect this type of fraud to rise. They want to send out a red flag warning to homeowners about using their own mailbox to send out checks.

Hooks is charged with bank fraud and faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Secret Service agents say they also expect to charge him with several counts of mail theft.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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