Mail Identity Theft: 2/1/11-2/6/11

Grand Rapids couple plead guilty to stealing checks from mailboxes, putting their names on them
The Grand Rapids Press – 2/5/11

(GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN) “A Grand Rapids couple accused of stealing mail and cashing altered checks pleaded guilty to federal charges. Harold Lewis Oliver, 33, pleaded guilty to possession of stolen mail and eight counts of fraud. Peggy Elizabeth Oliver, 32, pleaded guilty to a single charge of fraud. […] They will be sentenced May 9.

Investigators say the couple targeted residential mail boxes for theft. The Olivers altered checks by putting their own names over handwritten names or chemically “washing” checks to remove ink, the government said. They allegedly tried to cash checks ranging from $450 to $4,523.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal information for ID theft. To protect yourself use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss and never send checks from an unsecured mailbox. That red flag sends a message to thieves that there is personal sensitive info waiting to be stolen. Bring checks to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Also, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to foil dumpster divers.

Bonanza for mail theft
The Indianapolis Recorder – 2/3/11

(INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA) “You’ve read the number – more than 11 million victims of identity theft a year. While media attention focuses on cyber crimes, consumers need to remember that identity thieves are still taking advantage of one of the oldest ways to steal your identity – mail theft.

Because of the extensive use of the mail to commit identity theft and credit fraud, the Postal Inspection Service has become a leading agency in investigating these crimes, according to a 2009 United States Postal Service publication.

In January, employers, banks and credit card companies mail out all of their year-end documents, including W-2s, 1099 forms, credit card summaries, and brokerage statements. Additionally, on any given day, there are more than a million credit cards in the mail stream, part of the 700 million pieces of mail delivered daily.

People don’t understand that “walkers” follow mail carriers and look through your mail for any bonanza they can find. Mail thieves know the prime time is between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Others take advantage of the dark of night and/or consumers’ tendencies of not checking mailboxes each day.

Some thieves even go so far as to open the envelopes, copy the documents, then reseal your mail and place it in your box again a day later. Jane Hercules of Ezine Articles states that one-third of all identity theft began with mail theft.

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends the following suggestions:

  • Get a P.O. Box at a Post Office and use this for sensitive mail. The Post Office does background checks on employees and uses surveillance equipment.
  • During this critical time, have your mail held at the post office, with photo ID required for pick up. This is similar to a “vacation” hold.
  • Don’t use the excuse that you always get the mail when it arrives. Postal deliveries are not always at the same time and you can’t make sure you are standing next to your box at the right moment. That 30-second window is all a thief needs.
  • Keep a monthly calendar of when items arrive and if they seem delayed, call the sender to find out why. If you suspect mail theft, call the Postal Inspector’s Office immediately.
  • Do not report mail theft to your local Post Master.
  • Consider installing a strong locked mailbox.”

COMMENTS: Great article! Actually, research by Javelin Strategy indicates that most ID theft victims do not know how their information was compromised. Of those who do, the majority state “old fashioned” methods including stolen wallets, stolen trash, and stolen MAIL.

Remember, most locking mailboxes can be easily violated by would-be identity thieves, so be sure to get a good secure locking mailbox. The “bin mailers” at Lowes and Home Depot can be easily fished by hand so make sure your lock mailbox cannot be fished. Also, it should be resistant to prying and leveraged entry. A good option is the Mail Boss locking mailbox.

In addition to protecting incoming mail, never send sensitive documents or checks from an unsecured mailbox. Take them to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. And of course, be sure to shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Two East Texans found guilty of stealing mail
KETK – 2/3/11

(TYLER, TEXAS) Nicholas Hald of Kilgore and Justin Yanez of Troup have pleaded guilty to possessing stolen mail. According to court records, the defendants drove to various homes in and around Whitehouse and removed mail from residential mailboxes. Mail sometimes contained checks written in various amounts and DVDs, among other items. A Whitehouse resident noticed suspicious individuals and notified the police, which led to their arrest. Hale admitted to committing mail theft in other areas of East Texas as well.

COMMENTS: Mail theft is happening across the country. The best way to protect yourself is with a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss – it can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. You can find the MailBoss at Atwood’s in Tyler Texas. Also, you should always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to prevent dumpster divers from getting your personal info.

Two Arrested in Mail Theft Case
KEYT – 2/3/11

(SIMI VALLEY, CALIFORNIA) Police arrested Daniel Darnowski and Tracy Frink for stealing hundreds of pieces of mail in Simi Valley. The arrests were made after officers discovered a trash bag and plastic container full of stolen mail in their home and car. In the home of the accused, investigators found folders containing credit card and social security numbers as well as 75 stolen W-2 tax forms. In addition to charges related to identity theft, the two are facing drug charges.

COMMENTS: This story is pretty shocking for some residents. Imagine these crooks have collected, just from rifling through mailboxes, credit card numbers, social security numbers and over 75 stolen W-2 tax forms! How did they do that? Well, all that information is delivered daily to mailboxes across the country. It is actually quite easy for identity thieves to steal and accumulate personal sensitive documents just by grabbing incoming mail. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox to keep the hands of would-be identity thieves off your mail!

Man accused of stealing gift cards from Attleboro mailbox
The Sun Chronicle – 2/3/11

(ATTLEBORO, MASSACHUSETTS) Robert Strickland, 43, of Attleboro, was accused of stealing gift cards from mailboxes. He pleaded innocent and is free without bail until he is due in court next week.

COMMENTS: In the mean time, I imagine Mr. Strickland will be looking for more opportunities to “cash in” (so to speak) on loot in mailboxes. Mail identity thieves are repeat offenders and often receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist. To protect yourself from the fastest growing crime in the country, get a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss.

Police Blotter for Feb.1
The Newcastle News – 2/1/11

(NEW CASTLE, WASHINGTON) “[…] A man reported that his two locks on mailboxes on 138th Avenue Southeast had been damaged at 7 p.m. Jan. 12. The vandals caused $100 in damage, but no mail was taken.

A woman reported that the letters on her mailbox in the 9000 block of 139th Avenue Southeast had been stolen and that the mailbox’s lock had been broken between 4 p.m. Jan. 14 and 4 p.m. Jan 18. The vandalism caused $45 in damage. The mailbox was not entered. […]”

COMMENTS: Most competitors’ locking mailboxes can be easily violated by would-be identity thieves. To protect yourself use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. Beware of “secure” mailboxes like those in Home Depot or Lowe’s because they are very easy to break into and do little to protect your identity.

Mail theft is no game
Shore News Today – 2/1/11

(SEAVILLE, NEW JERSEY) Greta Schwartz of Seaville New Jersey reports in a letter to the editor that on the night of Friday, Jan. 28 at least 10 mailboxes were stolen around Hope Corson and Foxborough. Because these mailboxes contained mail, she rightly points, out, the crime constitutes a federal offense. She asks anyone with information to contact the State Police at 861-5698.

COMMENTS: This should be a good reminder to people about the importance of securing your mail. In your mailbox, thieves can find a plethora of sensitive information including bank account statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks and more, all of which can be used for identity theft. In the world today – with ID theft the fastest growing crime in the US and the closely correlated methamphetamine problem spiraling out of control – it is imperative to use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to protect your sensitive documents and, by extension, your identity.

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