SOUTH JORDAN — Police are warning residents in South Jordan that thieves may be after their mail.

Since March 29, 21 thefts have been reported, and there may be many more.

David Colton and his wife Maralyn had their mail stolen Monday morning.

"I opened up the mailbox, put four letters in there that had checks in them, closed it up (and) put this out, which is our flag for it," Colton said. "And then I got in the car to go to the bank."

About 15 minutes later, thieves stole his mail.

"They were either watching me or they were very opportunistic," he said. "They came as I drove away."

The only reason Colton knew crooks took his mail is because his neighbor chased down two suspects in a white car.

South Jordan police detective Sam Winkler said victims aren't usually so lucky — this is a crime of opportunity.

"Most people go to work at 8 o'clock in the morning, come home at 5 o'clock in the evening," Winkler said. "It's a very large window of opportunity when these crimes are taking place."

If it happens to you, it can cause long-term problems ranging from check fraud to identity theft. Winkler said they can use all the money in your accounts and then cash checks all over again, which could result in creditors looking for you.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service recommends people always deposit their mail in a mail slot at the post office or hand it to a letter carrier. It also recommends people not send cash or coins in the mail, promptly remove mail from the mailbox after delivery and if someone is expecting a check or other valuable mail, they should contact the issuing agency immediately.

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After the theft, the Coltons spent the rest of the day closing accounts and calling creditors because the checks stolen from the mailbox were tied to four bank accounts. Maralyn Colton uses one of those accounts to take care of her elderly mother.

"You feel attacked," she said. "You feel like someone's taken something from you."

Police have little information to go on with these mailbox thefts except descriptions of a few cars. Detectives are not only investigating mail theft, they are also looking at several cases where suspicious people have been seen tampering with mailboxes.

They've asked residents to be more watchful and call police if they see anything suspicious.