Mail Identity Theft: 1/25/11-1/30/11

Mel Gibson’s screener of ‘The Beaver’ stolen from his mailbox. ‘We think Pee-Wee Herman did it,’ say the police
Entertainment Weekly – 1/28/11

(MALIBU, CALIFORNIA) “That poor Mel Gibson just can’t catch a break. First, a fictional typhoon devastates Mago, the actor’s real private island. Then some sticky-fingered hoodlum steals Gibson’s screener of The Beaver right out of his mailbox. (The incident was first reported by TMZ.)

EW can confirm that the crime occurred Wednesday. A courier arrived at Gibson’s Malibu home at 2:30 p.m. to pick up the screener and deliver it to Summit Entertainment, The Beaver‘s distributor. As he discovered, however, someone else had already taken the DVD.

“We think Pee-Wee Herman did it,” Lieutenant Rich Erickson of the Malibu/Lost Hills Station Sheriff’s Department told EW before assuring that he was “just screwing with” us. On a more serious note, he said, “We have no leads on it at this time. It’s just been assigned to a detective.””

COMMENTS: This is all hilarious and everything because a DVD was stolen from Mel Gibson. But mail theft is a serious problem that affects millions of Americans a year, leading to identity theft. What I want to know is… what is multimillionaire Mel Gibson doing without a quality locking mailbox? Apparently he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Report theft of Oak Lawn Mail
Southwest Suburban News-Herald -1/28/11

(OAK LAWN, ILLINOIS) The Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on Tuesday featured discussion about mail being stolen from residents’ mailboxes […].[Trustee] Hurckes then discussed an issue in the area involving thieves stealing mail out of mailboxes, washing and bleaching them and then filling them out to cash. “Two residents have reported this to me at different times and dates,” said Hurckes. “The Chief of Police confirmed this issue and is working with postal authorities, but I wanted to warn the residents about putting checks into the mailboxes for the mail carrier to pick up, especially when they leave the flag up. It sends a message to the thieves.”

COMMENTS: Theft of outgoing mail is more commonly reported and therefore perceived to be a greater problem than theft of incoming mail. The main reason for this is if someone writes a check, say to pay a bill, and it is stolen, it is fraudulently cashed and the bill is not paid. The victim of mail fraud usually can determine this has happened within a few days or weeks at most from when they sent out the mail. On the other hand, theft of incoming mail often goes unnoticed and therefore unreported. The criminals gather sensitive information for identity theft and ultimately may use the information to open a new line of credit, use existing bank or credit accounts, apply for a job or receive medical care under your identity, etc. The damage is much more extensive and takes far longer to reconcile.

Given the prevalence of mail identity theft, vigilance is key. Residents need to secure both incoming and outgoing mail. Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, and never send sensitive documents like checks from an unsecured mailbox. Online bill pay is always the better option. And as always, shred sensitive documents before discarding them. But remember, most of what you shred comes in your mailbox, and it is easier for a thief to steal your personal information from the mailbox than the dump!

Mail theft down
KIMA 29 – 1/27/11

(YAKIMA, WASHINGTON) “The KIMA Crime Tracker discovered there’s been a huge drop in local mail theft.

“There’s a lot of important stuff that comes through the mail system and it would be foolish not to be safe.”

Mark McCallister will not go down without a fight. He knows an oversized mailbox with plenty of “goodies” inside is just too tempting for thieves.

“We’ve had neighbors that have been targets and they’ve lost mail,” McCallister says. “They found the mail in canal banks as far away as Granger.”

After years of steady increases in mail theft cases, KIMA discovered plenty of people are going in the locked direction.

The proof is in the numbers: a 73% drop in mail theft since 2007. Last year, there were only 22 reported incidents in all of Yakima County.

Besides locked mailboxes, post office boxes are the next best thing. The post office tells KIMA P.O. boxes are so popular that when one is empty, they’re usually gone within a week.

“People are seeing (theft) is happening out there, so that’s why they’re getting P.O. Boxes and locking mailboxes” says postal worker Cheryl Payton.

But that’s not to say everything is still okay. Post office workers tell Action News a handful of thieves have changed their ways and are snapping-off the locks on mailboxes. Fortunately, there have been only a few cases in the past year.

“It’s cheap. We feel much safer,” McCallister says.

Homeowners like McCallister are hoping to deliver a new message to thieves who used to think your mail was an easy target.

Post office officials tell us locking mailboxes are available at area hardware stores. They usually run about $100.”

COMMENTS: Good to see that reported mail theft is down. Many times victims don’t even realize when their mail has been stolen though. And as more and more citizens turn to locking mailboxes – as is pointed out in this article – thieves turn to violating low-quality locking mailboxes. Most “locked” mailboxes can in fact be easily violated in just seconds with a household screwdriver, and the $100 locking mailboxes in Lowe’s and Home Depot can be easily fished by hand. A quality option available at your local Ace Hardware or True Value is the Mail Boss – it can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver.

Rural area sees rash of mailbox vandalism; 60 boxes damaged over the weekend; sheriff’s office says it doesn’t have any suspects
Fort Scott Tribune – 1/27/11

(FORT SCOTT, KANSAS) “Many rural Fort Scott residents are left dealing with the damage after their mailboxes were vandalized over the weekend.

FortScott_mailbox vandalism
According to Fort Scott Post Office Postmaster Robert Vacca, about 60 mailboxes in rural Fort Scott were damaged this weekend. He said the residents have been calling the post office and the rural mail carriers have been reporting the varying damage since Monday morning.

“We were getting calls from pretty much the entire rural area around Fort Scott with some damage,” Vacca said. “Some of them were just bent up, some of them were knocked down, some were completely gone.”

According to Bourbon County Sheriff’s Deputy Bob Jackson damage done to several mailboxes on 240th Street, Jayhawk Road, Indian Road, 180th Street and Fern Road. He added that the Sheriff’s Office currently does not have any suspects in relation to the incidents.

As a general rule, Vacca said, post office employees refer customers to local law enforcement to file a report if mailboxes are damaged. He added that, contrary to popular belief, damage to a mailbox is not a federal offense, rather it is considered vandalism, much like graffiti. He said the issue becomes more severe when the contents of the mailbox are stolen.

“It doesn’t increase the severity of it any because they vandalized a mailbox,” he said. “The only crime that comes in is when they steal the mail, then it changes things,” Vacca said.

With the locations of the reports, Vacca said there does not appear to be any kind of pattern linking the incidents. However, he said some of the reports pertained to mailboxes that have been damaged in the past.

“There doesn’t seem to be any common thread or rhyme or reason as far as certain people who had their mailbox knocked down versus others,” he said.

One of those boxes belonged to Peggy Hall, who lives on Indian Road. Since Friday, Hall has replaced her mailbox at least twice. It was damaged Friday, she replaced it only to have it destroyed on Saturday. She replaced it again and it was hit so hard on Sunday, the post was broken off of its concrete base.

Hall said she spent $90 to have the post set in concrete this past summer and has had to replace her mailbox five times since moving into her house in July 2008. She added her mailbox has been damaged “numerous times,” however, she has been able to fix the damage with a hammer.

“I’ve got a new one sitting there ready to put up, but I haven’t put it up yet because I don’t have a post now to put it on,” she said.

Vacca said damage to mailboxes is somewhat expected because motorists frequently run off the road and strike them, or back into one as they are exiting their driveway. But he said it’s unusual to see so many incidents in such a short period of time.

“It’s kind of common to have mailboxes damaged from time to time, but nothing near this degree,” he said. “This is pretty severe.”

The post office does provide some assistance to residents who have had their mailboxes damaged.

Residents are urged to get their mailboxes replaced as quickly as possible and the post office will make arrangements for residents to get their mail in the meantime.

Not much can be done to prevent damage to mailboxes. Moving the boxes is discussed with resident and the post office, however, it is not always possible.

Vacca said the way rural mail routes are set up, mailboxes cannot be moved very far.

“The boxes are set in such a way … as our line of travel dictates where the boxes go,” he said. “The boxes are placed strategically based on the line of travel for the routes.”

One thing that Vacca tells residents who suffer from consistent damage is to evaluate the style of mailbox they have and the structure of the post, but even that may not be enough to keep it from being knocked over.

“There are only so many different kinds of mailboxes for customers to put up, and if (vandals) want to knock it down bad enough they’re probably going to get it,” he said.

Anyone with information regarding the vandalism is encouraged to contact the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office at (620) 223-1440. Area residents are also encouraged to report any suspicious vehicles in their area at night. ”

COMMENTS: Get a vandal proof mailbox – you’ll never have to replace it again.

The Mail Boss is 12-gauge steel and if a vandal hits it they won’t be coming back. It may dent a bit but it will NOT break! It has even withstood Hurricanes, Snow Plows, and Tractor Trailers. (See Mail Boss Customer Feedback for more info.)

Fairfax Police Logs: Jan. 24-26
San Anselmo-Fairfax Patch – 1/27/11

(FAIRFAX, CALIFORNIA) “[…] Theft: Mail was stolen from a mailbox on Vista Way and a credit card was subsequently used for fraudulent purchases. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal information for identity theft. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, never send sensitive mail like checks from an unsecured mailbox, and always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Woman admits part in mail-theft scheme
Camden Courier Post – 1/27/11

(CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY) Lakisha Scanes of Camden was the second person this week to plead guilty to charges that she took part in a mail-theft ring. Authorities allege Scanes and her husband, Johnson, who has yet to appear in court, oversaw a mail-identity theft ring that stole and fraudulently cashed checks worth about $88,000.

Camden man admits role in mail-theft ring
Camden Courier Post – 1/26/11

(CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY) Gilbert Mercado of Camden has pleaded guilty to charges that he took part in a mail-theft ring run by Nathaniel Johnson and Lakisha Scanes, also of Camden. Johnson and Scanes were arrested last May on charges they oversaw a mail-theft ring responsible for cashing checks stolen from mailboxes for over $90,000.

N.O. man charged with stealing checks
Daily Comet – 1/25/11

(NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA) More criminals are stealing checks from the outgoing mail to cash in on an increasingly popular mail fraud scheme. In New Orleans, Gregory Hernandez is charged with mail theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud after investigators determined he had stolen several thousand dollars worth of checks from the mail, and altered the amounts and payees for his own benefit. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

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