Seattle PI reports identity thief stole victims’ mail; provide identity theft prevention tips
On Saturday, January 24, 2009, the Seattle Post Intelligencer ran the story, “Identity thief gets 10-year sentence for stealing $200K,” originally reported here and reprinted below. This is another serious case of mail identity theft close to home, and while we are not surprised this continues to happen, we are thankful that Kristofer Jensen has been caught and put behind bars.
There are some important take home messages that can be garnered from this story, as well as from the information that is provided to help prevent mail and identity theft.
Does this sound familiar?
- Jensen preyed on unsecured mailboxes to steal people’s account numbers
By now, you should be aware that many criminals target unlocked mailboxes or unsecure locking mailboxes to gain access to and steal mail including sensitive material such as account numbers, checks, and more. For more information on mail identity theft and how to protect yourself, check out the Consumer Information section on our blog.
- Jensen was a known methamphetamine addict
For those who follow mail identity theft trends, you are likely also aware that there is a strong connection between drug abuse (specifically methamphetamines) and mail identity theft. To learn more, check out these interesting articles.
The Seattle Police Get it Right!
The Seattle PI report provides a link to identity theft prevention tips, and to our great surprise, the Seattle Police Department gives some sound advice:
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It can occur when a criminal steals personal identifying information such as name, birthdate, Social Security number or your mother’s maiden name and uses it for their own gain. These thefts can occur through lost or stolen credit or debit cards, non-secure online transactions, personal information recovered from your garbage, and most frequently, stolen mail from your mailbox. [Emphasis Added]
It is rare that a government agency will admit that the mailbox is a FREQUENT source preyed on by identity thieves. The USPS, for example, still will only admit that a very small number of identity theft incidents originate from mailboxes. There is, of course, a conflict of interest here in presenting an honest representation of reality.
The Prevention & Safety Tips go on to recommend the following:
- Don’t leave mail in your mailbox for more than a day. If you are gone, arrange to have a trusted neighbor or friend pick up your mail.
- Double check that mailboxes are official US Postal Service collection boxes before you deposit your mail.
- Shred or tear up all unnecessary documents that have your personal information on them.
What is Missing?
While this is sound advice, it is missing one fundamental element to mail identity theft prevention: a secure locking mailbox. The mailbox is the physical destination of sensitive information arriving to your home, and the mail must be protected at its source.
What good is a paper shredder for the mail you’ve already received if you leave your mail vulnerable in an unlocked or unsecured mailbox? You can’t shred what you don’t get, and how will you know what is missing until it’s too late? There is a major Catch 22 in the paper shredder phenomenon, and I recommend reading this article if you haven’t made the mailbox-paper shredder connection yet.
The first and best line of defense against mail identity theft is a security locking mail box like the USPS approved Mail Boss curbside locking mailbox. Don’t waste your money on some other locking mailboxes that can be pried open by hand or with a screwdriver in just seconds, and provide little or no protection against experienced mail identity thieves.
The Seattle PI Story:
He snatched people’s mail to get bank account numbers, stole more than $200,000 from 40 people and used methamphetamine in copious amounts, federal prosecutors said.
In the end, the bank fraud and identity theft earned Federal Way resident Kristofer Jensen a 10-year prison sentence Friday at the U.S. District Court in Seattle.
The 34-year-old’s actions were so egregious that U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman told him that methamphetamine addicts are “generally cowards.”
“They take the victim’s identity and steal from them in a cowardly way,” she said, according to a statement from prosecutors.
And she recommended that he get addiction treatment in prison.
From January 2007 to March 2008, he used account numbers from stolen mail and made fake identification cards to get money, prosecutors said. Those cards had the names of victims – but his photograph.
In August 2007, he visited five Washington Mutual branches and left with $11,500 from one person’s account. In March of that year, he went to a BECU branch in Auburn and withdrew money 15 times from the same account.
After bank officials in the state learned of him, he took his operation to Oregon. An account holder at First Tech Credit Union lost $14,000 because of his scheme.
His operation ended after a bank teller in Oregon became suspicious and wrote down a description of his car. Police officers later found him.
His case ended up in federal court because he faced charges in King, Snohomish and Pierce superior courts. Prosecutors in Washington County in Oregon also had prepared charges against him.
His sentence also includes four years of supervised release.
Tips on preventing identity theft can be found here.