(WSVN) - Before you send another check in the mail, there’s something you need to know: checks are being stolen in South Florida and sold on the dark web. 7’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.

Debra Beilman, MGI president: “It’s just a little eye shadow palette with all of the latest and greatest shades.”

If you wear makeup, there’s a good chance it was designed by Debra Beilman and her team at MGI.

The North Miami company develops and markets makeup for major brand names.

Debra Beilman: “It’s very, very, very rewarding.”

Business is booming.

But in March, more than a dozen of Beilman’s vendors and suppliers were not paid. She quickly realized why.

Debra Beilman: “I mean, the last place that you think you are going to get robbed is when you mail a check to a supplier.”

But that’s what happened. Someone broke into the outgoing mailbox at the industrial park where MGI is located.

Kevin Ozebek: “And it was clear that that was tampered with?”

Debra Beilman: “Yes, it was open.”

Beilman checked with her bank and saw that 15 checks, totaling nearly $40,000, were altered.

Debra Beilman: “I saw that the payee name had been changed, and the check had been cashed by someone else.”

For many of the checks, the payee was changed to “Darion” with an address in Benton, Arkansas.

On Google Maps, the address appears to be an empty lot.

Debra Beilman: “It’s major fraud.”

Debra’s friend, Ellie Bates, soon realized she was a victim too.

Ellie Bates, salon owner: “They changed the name, they changed the amount.”

Ellie owns You Wear It Well hair salon in North Miami Beach.

She knew she placed the check for the salon’s cable bill in her mailbox. So Ellie was stunned when she got a notice the bill wasn’t paid.

Ellie Bates: “So I open up the checkbook, because it’s old school, and there’s a check made out for $94.72 to Comcast. So I look on the mobile app, and that same check is now written out to Michael something or another for $1,440.72.”

And these two businesswomen are far from the only victims.

David Maimon, Georgia State University: “Unfortunately, we are seeing a comeback of mail theft, as well as check theft.”

David Maimon with Georgia State University scours the dark web for illegal activity.

His team is finding a slew of stolen checks from South Florida for sale on encrypted messaging apps.

David Maimon: “In the past, we’ve seen folks buying the checks in order to cash it, but fairly quickly, we realized that people are also using the checks in order to steal the owner’s identity.”

David sent us a stack of checks he found on the dark web. They include stolen checks from a Fort Lauderdale condo building, a plant nursery in Homestead and a concierge service in Miami.

The victims we were able to reach knew their checks were stolen, but were shocked to hear they were up for sale.

Kevin Ozebek: “You do say the inspection service is actively, aggressively investigating cases along this nature?”

Ivan Rameriz, United States postal inspector: “All of them.”

Postal inspector Ivan Rameriz admits, with a flood of complaints, and only about 70 investigators in Florida, they can’t respond to every case as fast as they’d like. So, with thieves still out there, Ivan says it’s best to never leave outgoing checks in a mailbox overnight.

Ivan Rameriz: “It’s kind of ripe for the picking.”

Ellie and Debra say they’re going to hand outgoing checks directly to a mail carrier or drop them off inside a post office.

Kevin Ozebek, 7News.


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