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Mail Identity Theft – 5/25/11-6/18/11

Post Time-Date 06-28-2011 | Author by MailBoss | Category Category Mail & Identity Theft | No Comments »

Jeannette mail thief sentenced to 30 months in prison
Tribune-Review – 6/18/11

(WESTMORELAND COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA) “A Jeannette man has been sentenced in federal court to 30 months in prison, $17,378 in restitution and three years supervised release after being convicted of mail theft.

[...] According to information presented to the court, Lewis stole bank statements and credit card convenience checks from residential mailboxes in Westmoreland County, which he later used at Walmart stores, local banks and other retail stores.

Before imposing the sentence, Bloch stated Lewis had a very serious criminal history related to his addiction to Oxycodone. [...]”

COMMENTS: Drug addiction is often behind identity theft, and stealing mail is one of the most common ways these criminals obtain sensitive information for fraud. Use the Mail Boss locked mailbox to secure your mail and protect your privacy and your good name.

Greenwood Investigators Search For Mail Thief
WSPA 7 – 6/17/11

(GREENWOOD COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA) “The Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a thief suspected of stealing mail from mailboxes. Investigators have captured surveillance pictures of a “person of interest.” Detectives say someone took outgoing mail from mailboxes in the Northern part of Greenwood County. Investigators believe the thief used checks in the outgoing mailboxes to re-create fake checks that he used to buy electronics at Wal-Marts in Aiken, Newberry, and Greenwood.

The red flag was up, a check was in the outgoing mail, but the mail didn’t run that day. It was Memorial Day. However, a Greenwood man noticed his mail was missing. Sheriff’s Investigator John Long says it was stolen.

Investigator John Long says, “We have three victims that have come forward about their mail being stolen which has yielded some forgeries.” Long says investigators believe someone took checks from three mailboxes in northern Greenwood County in three separate neighborhoods over Memorial Day weekend.

Investigators believe the thief used checks in the outgoing mailboxes to re-create fake checks that were used to buy electronics at Wal-Marts in Aiken, Newberry, and Greenwood.

Long says, “The check numbers do not match the check numbers that were presented to the Wal-Mart in Greenwood. However, the checking account and the routing number do match, so that would lead me to believe that somebody recreated the check.” [...]

Investigators say there could be more victims who don’t even know their mail was taken. Sheriff’s deputies say it’s rare to see cases of mail being stolen, but they say it’s a good idea for you to take your mail to the post office or leave it in a mail bin. [...]”

COMMENTS: Theft of incoming mail is just as, if not more, common as theft of outgoing mail. The difference is you’re just not likely to notice it when your incoming mail goes missing. The majority of identity theft victims have no idea how thieves obtained their sensitive personal information. Mail theft is much more common than most people realize.

Residents need to be vigilant: (1) Use a high security locking mailbox (available at your local Ace Hardware) to secure your incoming mail – credit card offers, bank statements, social security checks, etc. – from would-be identity thieves; (2) never send sensitive documents from your curbside mailbox – bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure; and (3) always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mail) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

News of Record: Police Log
The Bend Bulletin – 6/17/11

(BEND, OREGON) “[...] Bend Police Department: [...] Theft — Mail was reported stolen at 10:28 a.m. June 15, in the 600 block of Northeast Ninth Street. [...]

Redmond Police Department: [...] Theft — Mail was reported stolen and an arrest made at 3:05 p.m. June 15, in the 1100 block of Northwest Canyon Drive. [...]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft has been a long time problem in Bend and surrounding areas. Protect yourself with the MailBoss secure mailbox, available at Bend Ace Hardware or via Northwest Mailbox Installers in Bend, and at Fred Meyer in Redmond.

Mail Theft Suspect Sought
The Times Record – 6/17/11

(FORT SMITH, ARKANSAS) “A Fort Smith woman recently told police her husband has been stealing people’s mail as far back as March while delivering newspapers “to support his drug addiction,” according to a police report.

[...] A woman told officers that she discovered her husband, a newspaper carrier for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had been stealing people’s mail to support his drug habits. She told officers that his route covers the Fianna Hills area in southern Fort Smith.

She noticed the mail, which didn’t belong to her or her husband, in empty newspaper totes about three days ago, according to the report. She went to her father’s house who immediately called police, the report states. The mail was transported to the police department, where it is still being held. [...]”

COMMENTS: While it is quite frequent for drug addicts to support their addiction through mail-identity theft, it is pretty unusual for a wife to turn her own husband in. Usually they work as a team! Kudos to this woman for doing the right thing. I’m sure many people will be grateful for the opportunity to stop this man from using their identity information fraudulently. Residents across the nation should be vigilant of mail-identity theft and prevent would-be identity thieves from stealing their mail with a secure locking mailbox. In Fort Smith, you can find the Mail Boss at Yeager Hardware.

Police Arrest Three After Freeway Pursuit: Oakland men had allegedly stolen mail, then hit the freeway before they were caught.
Pleasanton Patch – 6/16/11

(PLEASANTON, CALIFORNIA) “Police arrested three Oakland men Thursday suspected of stealing mail from a mailbox as the homeowner looked on. The suspects then fled on the freeway.

When police finally caught up with Marcellus Lewis, 38; Kenyatta Island, 35, and Kent Battle, 27, they found checks stolen from the victim and hundreds of other checks from Pleasanton and throughout the Bay Area, according to a Pleasanton Police Department press release.

They also found account information, counterfeit travelers checks and other items.

About 9 a.m., a woman on Independence Drive called police to report that she’d seen the men steal mail from her curbside mailbox. An officer who happened to be in the area spotted the men speeding away in a black Cadillac Escalade. [...]

The driver kept to normal freeway speeds, but did not stop when officers tried to pull him over. No one was injured during the pursuit.

All westbound lanes were shut down and police arrested the three at gunpoint, according to an article in the Contra Costa Times.

The men were arrested on charges of mail theft, possession of stolen property and obstruction of justice for giving false identities.”

COMMENTS: Out of all the hundreds of victims these three targeted in broad daylight, only one homeowner actually noticed anything suspicious and called police. This is typical, as most mail theft goes unnoticed and is not reported. Figures by authorities on incidences of mail theft are grossly underestimated. In fact, mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal, financial, and sensitive information for identity theft. This is verified by third party researchers such as Javelin Strategy. The best defense is to use a high security locking mailbox like Mail Boss, and exercise vigilance with outgoing mail.

Redmond Police Blotter: June 15
Redmond Patch – 6/16/11

(REDMOND, WASHINGTON) “Wednesday, June 15: 8:06 a.m., 8700 block of 152nd Ave. NE: Redmond Police took a mail theft report that occurred over the weekend. [...]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is common in the pacific northwest. Protect yourself with a high security mailbox, and never send sensitive info or checks from your mailbox. Online bill pay is more secure. Remember to shred personal documents but don’t forget most of these come in your mailbox so be sure to protect them at their source as well!

Residents Warned About Mail Thief
WSBTV 2 – 6/16/11

(ATLANTA, GEORGIA) “The U.S. Postal Service is investigating a series of mail thefts in southeast Atlanta. According to residents along Clay Street, the thefts happened on Tuesday.

Investigators said they are not sure who is behind the crime, but someone went through mailboxes, opened letters, stole checks and left the empty envelopes behind.

“I don’t know how many mailboxes have been hit,” said Joe Hardy. Hardy lives on the block.

Initially, residents called Atlanta police for help, but now the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Service is involved because stealing mail is a federal offense.

Off-camera, a neighbor told Channel 2′s Erica Byfield that a woman on the street found most of the empty envelopes in her mailbox.

Some worry the crime could lead to identity theft.

Hardy said the theft got his neighbors’ attention.

“They are spreading the word. Some are mad, some are surprised and shocked. And they are more cautious now that they know that could happen,” he said.”

COMMENTS: The only reason thieves steal mail is for identity fraud or identity theft – it’s certainly not to pay your bills! Mail theft is a growing problem in Atlanta (just ask Ana Lawless!), and residents need to take precautions. To protect yourself use a high security locked mailbox like the Mail Boss, available in Atlanta at Ace Hardware, and never send sensitive documents like checks from your mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office, or better yet, use online bill pay – it’s more secure.

Police Blotter
San Jose Mercury News – 6/16/11

(SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA) “[...] 2500 block of El Camino Real, Friday Police contacted three females in a motel parking lot, searched the large bags they were carrying and arrested two of them after finding drug pipes, stolen mail and checks inside. [...]”

COMMENTS: Sounds about right… drug pipes, stolen mail and checks. Methamphetamine and drug abuse goes hand in hand with mail-identity theft. The criminals often congregate in motel rooms, just like the mail thieves who stole Mail Boss inventor David Bolles’ mail five years ago. This story happens over and over again. The only way to protect against theft of incoming mail is with a high security locked mailbox like Mail Boss.

Man arrested for credit fraud, mail theft
Observer and Eccentric – 6/16/11

(LIVONIA, MICHIGAN) “The driver of a Dodge van was arrested after the police officer, who had pulled him over for running a red light, found that he had a suspended driver’s license. He faces possible credit fraud and theft of U.S. mail charges after the officer found several pieces of mail not belonging to the suspect and several credit and debit cards that were in other individuals’ names.

[...] The officer made a traffic stop on the vehicle. [...] The officer found during a search of the van several credit and debit cards with other names that were not the suspect’s. A check for $4,525 paid to someone involved in real estate was found in the van. The officer called the woman from whose account the check was drawn. She told the officer she did not write the check. The officer also found pieces of mail with various addresses that did not belong to the driver, including the woman’s bank statement. Three U.S. Postal Service money orders totaling $2,925 were found in a leather briefcase in the van.

The officer also found multiple names with Social Security numbers and dates of birth that police believe were to be future victims of fraud. [...]”

COMMENTS: It would be reasonable to believe that none of the victims of mail-fraud in this case were even aware they had any information stolen from them. That is why mail theft is such an under-reported crime (and also explains why so many victims of identity theft have no idea how their information was compromised.) Most people do not know, from day to day, what is coming in the mailbox, and therefore do not notice when it goes missing. The only sure proof way to protect your mail from would-be identity thieves is to use a high security locking mailboxes like the Mail Boss.

USPS Needs to Cut Crime
The Ledger – 6/14/11

(WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA) “Starting in December, we became aware that mail being sent out through the U.S. Postal Service was not being received. At first we thought it was because of the heavy volume over the holidays.

We later became aware, through questioning our mail carrier, that this has indeed been an ongoing problem, and most of the mail stolen is in the form of cards that could contain cash or gift cards, and it was happening to mail both picked up at homes and businesses, or dropped off at the post office.

Our carrier also told us that they have tried to catch the person doing this through surveillance videos but have been unsuccessful. It appears that this is happening either locally or through the Tampa post office, which is now sorting the outgoing mail.

Checks and cash mailed to family members, rebate forms and bills due to suppliers are quite often not being delivered. A complaint has been filed with USPS and the Sheriff’s Office. Our postal system needs to clean up their act, not cover it up. The public needs to be aware of this crime.”

COMMENTS: The USPS has a vested interest in citizens continuing to trust (and use) the postal service. Meanwhile, with the state of the economy crime is on the rise and thieves are increasingly targeting incoming and outgoing mail for check fraud and identity theft. We cannot rely on the Postal Inspectors to stop mail theft. In fact it is one of the most under reported crimes to begin with as most victims don’t even realize their mail has been stolen until it is too late.

To protect yourself take several steps: (1) Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to prevent thieves from stealing your sensitive financial information from your mailbox; (2) never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox – take bill payments directly to the post office or use online bill pay whenever possible; and (3) always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Mail Theft and Fraud Ring Busted
KION/KCBA – 6/11/11

(SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA) “Signed, sealed and stolen. Detectives say they’ve uncovered a fraud ring that targeted mail. Investigators believe a woman from Santa Maria orchestrated the large mail theft and fraud ring. More than 150 people are believed to be victims of it.

[...] “Various forms of identity theft, check washing and fraud were then carried out from that house, using runners in some cases, with debit cards and things of that nature,” said Rob Bryn, a spokesperson for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s department.

[...] “Between Santa Maria and Pismo Beach they were stealing mail, then taking it to a location in Santa Maria where it was sorted through,” said Bryn.

Authorities arrested all three suspects after a raid on Friday at a home on East Cook in Santa Maria. Inside the home they found more than 300 pieces of stolen mail. Mail theft is a federal offense. [...]”

COMMENTS: The story implies the ID theft ring targeted mostly OUTGOING mail, but then how did the thieves come across debit cards? People do not send debit cards via USPS Blue Boxes. Identity thieves are opportunistic and they will take sensitive personal and financial information wherever they can find it. That may be in your curbside mailbox or in the dump, in your car or in a blue USPS box.

No one is ever 100% safe from mail-identity theft, but there are many things you can do to protect yourself. First and foremost, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep thieves from stealing your incoming mail. Most people don’t realize when their mail has been stolen so prevention is key! In addition, do not send sensitive documents (checks, bill payments, etc.) from an unsecured mailbox. Hand bill payments directly to the mail carrier, bring them to the post office, or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mail) before discarding them to prevent dumpster diving. Finally, check financial accounts regularly for suspicious activity. Early detection is key to preventing the snowball of destruction to your credit and good name that is identity theft.

Be on the lookout for mail theft in Kuna
Kuna Melba News – 6/10/11

(KUNA, IDAHO) “Kuna has been hit by a couple of mailbox thefts recently and some have reported suspicious vehicles in their neighborhood following the rounds made by their postal carrier.

Ada County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Miller wants to warn Kuna residents to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods and report it to police.

There was a report of a mailbox theft in Kuna on Monday, then another one on Wednesday, Miller said.”

COMMENTS: In Washington and Oregon, many people have locking mailboxes. However, in Idaho people are not as aware of the growing problem of mail-identity theft. In fact, mail theft is not uncommon in Idaho. We did a feature story on mail theft in Idaho awhile back! Now it’s in the news again, this time in Kuna, a suburb of Boise. For Idaho residents looking to protect their identity with a Mail Boss, go to Overland Ace Hardware or Fred Meyer and ask for the Mail Boss locking security mailbox by name.

Three Arrested For Mail Fraud
KVEC – 6/9/11

(SANTA MARIA, CALIFORNIA) “Three Santa Maria residents were arrested last Friday in connection with a mail and identity theft ring started last month. The three stole from more than 150 people in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Police raided a Santa Maria home on the 500 block East Cook Street Friday. The three people arrested at the home were 26-year-old Natalie Rae Fuentes, 44-year-old Michael John Hastings and 29-year-old Casey Sartain.

It’s not clear whether the suspects lived at the home, but authorities said they found evidence of mail theft, stolen checks and identity fraud there. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Bomb Task Force also processed an explosive device at the home.

The suspects allegedly stole mail from U.S. Postal Service drop boxes, including some in Pismo Beach. They then reportedly used a chemical solution to wash the original information off any checks they found, leaving account holders’ signatures intact. With the checks blank they could replace the payee and sums. The checks were then deposited into accounts created for the scam. No word yet how many drop boxes may have been burglarized, nor how many people had money stolen.

Hasting and Fuentes have been booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail. Sartain is being held in Santa Barbara County Jail. Official believe there may be more suspects. ”

COMMENTS: ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and one of the most common ways thieves obtain your sensitive information is by stealing your mail. Common sense tells you some of your most sensitive financial information is sent through the mail. Secure your mail with a locking mailbox, and never send checks or bill payments from an unlocked mailbox. Ask for the Mail Boss by name at Hayward Lumber in Santa Maria, or your local Ace Hardware.

Rural residents should use mailbox caution when sending money or making payments
The Smithville Times – 6/8/11

(SMITHVILLE, TEXAS) “[...] This week, while riding my bicycle near Cedar Creek, I spotted some mail along the side of the road. I picked up four regular sized envelopes apparently used to mail payments to corporations. Each was torn open. The billing statement was still in the envelope, the stamps un-canceled. The checks were missing.

Most of us have seen on TV how easy it is to “wash” checks. It appears that someone placed these letters in a rural private mail box, raised the flag and believed they would be delivered to the proper location. These four didn’t make it.

I don’t use a side of the road rural mail box to mail my bills. In fact, I don’t have a rural mailbox at all. A few years ago, I spotted someone going through my mailbox. I yelled at him and he sped away. Nothing taken – this time. A former coworker of mine had a box of personal checks taken from his rural mailbox and it took him over a year to get his credit straightened out. I use a Post Office box.

I write this letter to you in hopes you will publish it to remind people to take their outgoing mail to the post office, official Post Office mailbox or some other safe place to help ensure their mail, checks and identity are not stolen. [Submitted by Judi Vreeland of Cedar Creek.]”

COMMENTS:Theft of outgoing mail is increasingly common – it’s one of the easiest ways for thieves to obtain financial information for identity fraud and identity theft. Theft of incoming mail is just as serious when you consider what comes in your mailbox: credit card statements, preapproved credit card offers, bank account numbers, pay stubs, checks, replacement debit/credit cards, etc. What’s more, most people don’t even realize their mail has been stolen until it’s too late.

You can never be too safe with your mail. If you prefer the convenience of a rural mailbox over the Post Office, make sure to use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep thieves from stealing your sensitive information for identity theft. In addition, never send checks or bill payments from an unlocked mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. And of course, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox!) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers. These steps greatly reduce the odds of becoming a victim of mail-identity theft.

Three arrested in identity theft ring that stole from 150 people, authorities say
San Luis Obispo Tribune – 6/8/11

(SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA) “Three Santa Maria residents were arrested Friday in connection with a mail and identity theft ring that’s affected more than 150 people in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties since May, authorities said.

[...] It’s not clear whether the suspects lived at the home, but authorities said they found evidence of mail theft, stolen checks and identity fraud there.

[...] The suspects allegedly stole mail from U.S. Postal Service drop boxes — including some in Pismo Beach — and used a chemical solution to wash the original information off any checks they found, leaving account holders’ signatures intact. They then changed the payee and/or sums on the checks, authorities said.

The checks were then deposited into online accounts created for the scam, and the funds were transferred to debit cards that accomplices used to take money from the victims’ bank accounts, authorities said. [...]

The number of San Luis Obispo County residents whose accounts were affected also was not disclosed Wednesday. But detectives said some of the victims lived in the North and South counties, including in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Byrn said Wednesday that there may be theft victims living in other locations that have not yet been confirmed. [...]”

COMMENTS: ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and one of the most common ways thieves obtain your sensitive information is by stealing your mail. Common sense tells you some of your most sensitive financial information is sent through the mail. Secure your mail with a locking mailbox, and never send checks or bill payments from an unlocked mailbox. Ask for the Mail Boss by name at Hayward Lumber in Santa Maria, or your local Ace Hardware.

Woman Charged with Stealing Lakeville Woman’s Identity: Authorities say one of Polly Tasha Hobbs’ identity theft victims was a Lakeville woman.
Lakeville Patch – 6/8/11

(LAKEVILLE, MINNESOTA) “A St. Paul woman has been charged with identity theft after authorities found items belonging to at least 15 different people—including a Lakeville woman—during a traffic stop.

[...] According to the complaint against Hobbs, South St. Paul police received a report on May 25 of someone stealing items from mailboxes in that city. A witness provided the license number of the suspect’s vehicle, which police discovered was registered to Hobbs’ father.

Three days later, Newport police stopped the car because the driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and identified her as Hobbs. They called South St. Paul police, who arrived to talk to Hobbs; during their discussion, an officer noticed “numerous torn-up checks at Hobbs’ feet in a variety of colors.”

Hobbs was arrested for mail theft and put into a squad car, where she asked police to retrieve her purse. A subsequent search of the purse turned up two wallets, each containing a driver’s license for a woman other than Hobbs; however, the complaint notes, the driver’s license photos of the two women—one of whom lives in Lakeville—looked enough like Hobbs for her to pass for them.

Police also found a check register in the name of one of the women on the stolen driver’s licenses, along with that woman’s Social Security number, and counterfeit checks, gift cards and a receipt for a local motel. When she was confronted with the evidence, Hobbs admitted counterfeiting checks, but said she wasn’t responsible for everything police found in her purse, the complaint says.

[...] When the motel manager cleaned out Hobbs’ room, officers found two laptop computers, two printers, check writing paper, the driver’s license and Social Security numbers of several different people, checkbooks, checks, Wisconsin watercraft license tabs, a Minnesota car title, a cosmetologist license, a Roth IRA statement and a variety of other documents listing the names and identifying information of other people, according to the complaint.

Hobbs’ extensive Minnesota criminal record includes a number of convictions for identity theft, mail theft, theft by swindle, receiving stolen property and check forgery dating back to 2005. [...]”

COMMENTS: Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. One of the easiest and most common ways criminals like Hobbs obtain your identity information is by rifling through incoming and outgoing mail. Mail contains a plethora of financial and other sensitive information, and it is often lying in an unlocked mailbox ripe for the plucking. Given the prevalence of these kind of crimes, it is important to use a high security locking mailbox to protect yourself. In Lakeville, you can find the Mail Boss at Ace Hardware and Paint or Mills Fleet Farm. In addition, take care to never send checks or other sensitive documents from your mailbox. Use online bill pay when possible – it’s more secure. And as always, shred or burn sensitive documents (many of which come in the mail!) rather than throwing them in the trash to thwart dumpster divers.

Police Log: Who Scatters Mail Across the Road?
Reading Patch – 6/7/11

(READING, MASSACHUSSETS) “[...] 7:00 a.m. A Parsons Lane resident reported that he found several mailboxes on Franklin Street opened and their mail scattered on the ground. He told police that he collected the mail and returned it to where it belonged. An officer later checked the area and found the same had happened to two mailboxes on Pearl Street. Another officer informed the Post Office of the incident.

[...] 10:01 a.m. A Dean Road resident reported that someone had scattered mail from an Eastway mailbox.

COMMENTS: To answer the title of this post: IDENTITY THIEVES. Mailboxes are common targets for identity thieves, as they offer a treasure trove of personal sensitive information, from W2s to credit card offers and bank account statements to utility bills. They can quickly and easily sort through mail, taking any items of value and discarding the rest. Some crooks simply put the “junk” mail of no value to them back in your mailbox, leaving residents unsuspecting. At least when they discard it on the street you know something is awry and can be vigilant with your financial accounts and even issue a credit alert.

The best defense against the fast growing crime of mail-identity theft is to use a high security locking mailbox to secure your mail and protect your privacy.

Police: Whitesboro man says he stole mail
The Observer-Dispatch – 6/6/11

(WHITESBORO, NEW YORK) “A Whitesboro man was charged after allegedly confessing to stealing mail, Whitesboro police said. [...] Fitzgerald-Bord allegedly admitted to stealing mail from 12 different houses and allegedly resisted arrest, police said. [...]

Fitzgerald-Bord was charged with felony second-degree assault, 12 counts of larceny for the mail theft and possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. He is being held in the Oneida County jail on $10,000 bail. [...]”

COMMENTS: Whereas mail theft used to be predominantly a problem in areas plagued by methamphetamine abuse, now it is a nationwide epidemic and one of the primary ways identity thieves obtain your sensitive personal information. Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure your incoming mail and protect your privacy. Near Whitesboro, you can find the Mail Boss at Murphy’s Lock and Alarm in Fayettville, Fradon Lock Company in Syracuse, or your local Ace Hardware.

Police Log: Stolen Mailboxes, Breaking and Entering
Milton Patch – 6/6/11

(MILTON, MASSACHUSETTS) “[...] At 9:08 a.m. Friday, a caller from Saddle Ridge Road reported her mailbox was taken from her front yard sometime overnight.

At 10:57 a.m. Friday a caller from Meagher Avenue reported her mailbox was taken sometime overnight. [...]

At 12:24 p.m. Friday, a caller from Old Farm Road reported his mailbox was stolen sometime overnight. [...]”

COMMENTS: Mailboxes have little or no value to thieves, but the contents do! Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain information for identity theft. In this case, it is strange that they would bother to steal the entire mailbox (and presumably its contents) unless it was some kind of “prank”. This is a good reminder, though, to think of all of the valuable information you receive in your mailbox, and consider upgrading to a high security locking mailbox for identity theft prevention.

Postmaster issues warning after Nevada City mail thefts
TheUnion.com – 6/3/11

(NEVADA CITY, CALIFORNIA) “Nevada City’s Postmaster is investigating a recent rash of mail thefts in the last two weeks, he said. Thieves have been swiping mail in the city and its rural areas recently, targeting anything valuable-looking, said Postmaster Paul Berube. Tampering with mail is a federal offense.

“It’s pretty rampant right now, it’s all over the place,” Berube said. “These are professionals. They are looking for bank statements, credit cards, identify-theft type things, and packages, parcels … anything that looks valuable.”

On Tuesday, Nevada City U.S. Post Office employees handled about 15 calls from customers reporting possibly stolen mail. Reports have been made to the Nevada City Police and Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Berube said. The thefts appear to have occurred at night, Berube added.

“The main thing is don’t let your mail sit out overnight” Berube advised. Postal Service investigators are reviewing the cases, he added. Report any mail theft to your local law enforcement office, he said. [...]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft does not only happen at night. Just look at all the other stories here about thieves stealing mail in broad daylight. The only way to prevent theft of incoming mail is to use a high quality secure locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. You can find the Mail Boss near Nevada City at B & C True Value, Auburn True Value, and Harshbarger Ace Hardware.

Mail Theft Ring Results In $100,000 In Losses: Gang Operating In Five States, Including Colorado
ABC 7 - 5/31/11

(ARVADA, COLORADO) “Arvada police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are asking for the public’s help in identifying individuals connected to a mail-theft ring stretching beyond the Denver Metro area, that has resulted in more than $100,000 in losses.

It’s believed at least two suspects are involved in nearly two dozen mail-theft incidents in the Arvada area, police said Tuesday. [...] Investigators believe the mail-theft ring has been operating for nearly seven months in the Denver Metro area, Wyoming, Utah, California and New Mexico. [...]”

COMMENTS: Protect your privacy and your identity with a secure locking mailbox. Find the Mail Boss at Ace Hardware – Alameda Station or AIS Industrial-Construction Supply.

Three arrested and accused of stealing checks in Egg Harbor Township
Press of Atlantic City – 5/27/11

(EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY) “Three people were arrested in a scheme that police said involved the trio fishing thousands of dollars in fraudulent federal government checks out of township residents’ mailboxes.

[...] Police said the men would have Treasury checks mailed to unsuspecting township residents who lived along Imperial Drive and Fremont and Fernwood avenues in the Bargaintown section of the township. After the mail was delivered, one of the suspects would ride a bicycle from mailbox to mailbox, collecting the checks. The biker then would meet the others at the end of the road.

[...] During the surveillance, police identified the suspect vehicle when it arrived in the Fernwood Hills development near Imperial Drive. Police said two people inside the car then got out and started looking in mailboxes.

Police responded and arrested the suspects. Police said 22 checks were scheduled for delivery Monday with a total value in excess of $118,000. [...]”

COMMENTS: In this case, mail theft is not even a crime of opportunity, but one that the thieves planned! They knew the checks would be delivered, and preyed on the target mailboxes until they were able to grab the checks. This takes even more gall than the typical mail-identity theft, but just goes to show how easy it is to steal from unlocked mailboxes, even in the middle of the day. Protect yourself from mail-identity theft with a locking security mailbox like the Mail Boss, available near Egg Harbor Township at Hammonton Ace Hardware, Ace of Gloucester Township, and Grove True Value Home Center.

Camden woman admits role in thefts from mail
Philly.com – 5/27/11

(CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY) “A Camden woman has admitted that she was part of a fraud that netted more than $77,000 by stealing checks from the mail.

Johanna Fraticelli, 29, appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court before Judge Joseph Rodriguez and pleaded guilty to theft of government funds.

In recent months, three others have pleaded guilty as well. Fraticelli and the others admitted they were part of a plan in which tax refunds, Social Security checks, and other government checks were stolen from mail trucks or mailboxes between November 2009 and March 2010.”

COMMENTS: It’s about time she fessed up! Hopefully she will go away for a long time, and have to pay restitution to the individuals and businesses that were defrauded by this mail-identity theft ring.

Additional arrests made in Edmonds residential burglaries
Edmonds Beacon – 5/26/11

(EDMONDS, WASHINGTON) “On Thursday, April 28, at 11:26 a.m. Edmonds Police responded to the 1300 block of 6th Avenue S. when a resident of that neighborhood reported seeing a man prowling around homes there. [...]

Following the arrest of the suspect, he was interviewed by Edmonds PD Detectives and officers from the Edmonds PD Street Crimes Unit regarding his knowledge and potential involvement in other burglaries in this same area.

[...] Working in a joint effort to address recent incidents of residential burglaries in the downtown Edmonds area, Edmonds PD Detectives and Street Crimes officers uncovered additional leads which led them to two other suspects in these cases.

[...] This subject was arrested for Possession of Stolen Property after officers served a search warrant on his storage unit and discovered stolen property and stolen mail.

A search warrant was also served on this subjects vehicle and along with additional stolen property a quantity of methamphetamine as well as over 150 grams of heroin was discovered in the vehicle and directly linked to him. [...]”

COMMENTS: Mail-identity theft and methamphetamine go hand in hand. These addicts will get money for drugs by whatever means necessary. This includes burglary, robbery, petty theft and a favorite due to the low-risk, identity theft. Kudos to the Edmonds police for getting these three off the streets. Now let’s just hope the judicial system can keep them off the streets for awhile!

Denver Police looking for mail thief
FOX 31 – 5/25/11

(DENVER, COLORADO) “Police need help identifying a man who broke into a Denver apartment building last Tuesday and made off with some unusual valuables. Residents say they didn’t even know it happened, but surveillance cameras captured him in the act. [...]

Not only are the Denver Police looking for the suspect, so is the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, because the thief made off with mail. Even though it’s only made of paper, the information on it is invaluable and dangerous in the wrong hands.

“You can’t really feel safe anywhere anymore,” says apartment resident Sara Heath. The theft took place despite an iron fence around the building and locked mailboxes, and even despite surveillance cameras.

[...] She saw strewn mail in the foyer of her building last week, but she didn’t think anything of it—until now. “You’re seeing 20 mailboxes being broken into at once. This guy, what he did, he broke into the mailbox and then he took all the mail and stuffed it into a trash can and took off with it. He’s got 20 people’s information potentially at his disposal,” says Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson.

[...] “This is just bizarre. I never thought of someone stealing mail,” says resident Emily Martino. Martino says she didn’t even know it happened, but police say it’s pretty common.

“Often times your mailbox can be broken into, or if you have one that doesn’t have a lock on it, you don’t know it’s gone until your identity’s been taken,” says Jackson. [...]”

COMMENTS: Denver Police spokesman Jackson is spot on when he points out that many locking mailboxes can be broken into, and people with unlocked mailboxes most often do not realize when their mail has stolen. The majority of mailboxes in the nation are still unlocked, which explains why mail theft is one of the most under reported crimes and grossly underestimated as a cause of identity theft. For example, the USPS claims only 2% of identity theft is caused by mail theft. However, Javelin Strategy (an unbiased 3rd party researcher) states that the majority of ID theft victims do not know how their information was compromised. Of those who do know, the majority (~35%) indicate old-fashioned methods including stolen wallets and stolen mail. In reality, identity thieves are opportunistic and will steal information wherever they can find it. Often times that means taking it right from your mailbox.

In the case in Denver above, residents may have believed their mail was safe in “locked” mailboxes, but most cluster boxes offer only a moment’s deterrence to mail-thieves. With low-quality locking mechanisms, a simple flick of a screwdriver is all that’s required to access the mail of multiple residents. Cluster boxes are a gold mine for would-be identity thieves.

Whenever possible, choose a high security residential locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. If you are not comfortable using a low-security cluster box, opt for a post office box instead.

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