Mail-Identity Theft: 2/8/11-2/13/11

N.J. man admits stealing government checks from mail boxes, postal trucks – 2/13/11

(CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY) “A southern New Jersey man has admitted stealing thousands of dollars of government checks from mail boxes and postal trucks in the Camden area. Forty-two-year-old Nathaniel Johnson faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to theft of government funds.

Federal prosecutors say the thefts were part of an identity theft scheme that Johnson ran with his wife, Lakisha Scanes. The pair stole Social Security, tax refund and unemployment checks from November 2009 to April 2010, then recruited people to cash them using fake IDs the couple provided. Prosecutors say the scheme cost the government more than $70,000. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail identity theft happens across the nation, and apparently has become quite the lucrative crime! Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal sensitive information is by stealing from mailboxes (and in this case, also directly from the postal trucks).

There are several things to do to protect yourself. Most importantly, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be easily fished by hand or pried open with a screwdriver. This will keep your incoming mail (bank account statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks, tax documents, etc.) out of the hands of would-be identity thieves. In addition, never send sensitive documents like checks or credit card payments from an unsecured mailbox. Instead, bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Lastly (and most people know this one) shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documnets (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Two men plead guilty to ID theft that cost victims $786,000: They admit stealing credit and debit cards from mailboxes
Orlando Sentinel – 2/11/11

2 Plead Guilty In Wellington Mail Thefts: Wellington Men Stole Credit, Debit Cards From Mailboxes
WPBF 25 – 2/11/11

2 Wellington men plead guilty to federal ID theft, mail theft
The Palm Beach Post – 2/11/11

(WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA) “Two Wellington men pleaded guilty today in federal district court to conspiracy, mail theft and other charges related to a Palm Beach County-based identity theft ring that relied on hackers to print fake driver’s licenses and other documents.

Ricardo Lee Penn, 48, and Dorian Jerrell Cawley, 26, entered the pleas before Senior Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp […]. During a two-year period beginning in August 2008, Penn and Cawley stole credit and debit cards from Wellington residents’ mailboxes and used them to make purchases and cash withdrawals. […]”

COMMENTS: It is remarkable that financial instutitions send out checks, debit cards and credit cards, not to mention bank account statements, credit card offers, and courtesy bank checks, when the majority of Americans receive their mail in an unsecured mailbox. There is so much that can go wrong, especially since thieves target residential mailboxes for identity theft. It is just a matter of time until people realize that mail theft is a real and growing theft, and convert to secure locking mailboxes.

Police warn of Morrison mail thefts
St. Cloud Times – 2/11/11

(LITTLE FALLS, MINNESOTA) In December, Morrison County Sheriffs thought the rash of mail theft was over after arresting a mail thief. Now, more victims have come forward in Motley, Scandia Valley and Cushing after realizing their W2 tax documents had been stolen from their mailboxes. Police are warning residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the authorities with specific details if possible immediately.

COMMENTS: Just when you think you caught the bad guy, there’s another one; it’s like that game with the hungry, hungry hippos! Seriously, though, mail theft is becoming a very popular way for thieves to obtain your personal information for identity theft. To protect yourself, get a high quality locking mailbox and never send sensitive documents from an unsecured mailbox – use online bill pay instead.

Mail repeatedly stolen, and more
Chicago Tribune Local – 2/9/11

(ELGIN, IL) “The following items were taken from Elgin police records Feb. 9. […] Mail was repeatedly stolen from a residence in the 200 block of Villa between Jan. 1 and Feb. 8. […]”

COMMENTS: Sounds like it’s probably time to get a secure locking mailbox!

Mail theft affects water system payments
Troy Messenger – 2/9/11

Hundreds of Water Bills Stolen in Pike Co.
CBS 8 – 2/9/11

(PIKE COUNTY, ALABAMA) The Pike County Water Authority discovered last week that 300-500 water bill payments were stolen from their mailbox. Now, they are warning customers to be on the lookout for identity theft. While many residents wait to see if they will be affected, others like customer Johnny Garrett have already become victims.

Garrett’s payment to the Pike Co. Water Authority in the amount of $164 was stolen from the mailbox on Highway 231, and now over $4,000 has been fraudulently withdrawn from his bank account. The thief was able to wash his bill payment and then use his account information to create additional fraudulent checks.

Pike County Water Authority’s Office Manager Brandy Hand says they will no longer allow mail to be delivered to the mailbox outside. They are looking into getting a locked mailbox or a post office box, but in the meantime the postal carrier is honking the horn to notify them when mail arrives.

For more information on this story as well as how it may relate to the FACT Act, please see this featured article on our blog.

COMMENTS: It seems really irresponsible for the Pike County Water Association to receive “hundreds of checks” monthly in an unlocked mailbox. I realize not everyone thinks about mail theft, but this is a company and this oversight may lead to huge headaches (identity theft) for all of the customers who had their mail stolen.

Mail theft is an epidemic across the country! Thieves target residential and business mailboxes to steal financial information, account numbers, etc. There is an easy solution – use a high security locking mailbox like Mail Boss to keep thieves from stealing mail. No need to make the mail carrier honk the horn. Just secure the mail! That’s the right thing to do, not only for a business but also for customers. Too bad in this case there were so many victims, and as with residential mail theft, you don’t realize you’ve been targeted until it’s too late.

Police make arrest after caller reports witnessing mail theft
The Daily Courier – 2/9/11

(PRESCOTT, ARIZONA) One afternoon, a man in Prescott saw a woman taking mail out of mailboxes in the neighborhood and called police. Officers responded and found the suspect Dills sorting through residents’ mail. While she alleged that she found the mail in a trash can, witness accounts suggest otherwise. Dills was booked into county jail on charges of burglary in the third degree and possession of stolen property. She does not currently face federal charges.

COMMENTS: Thieves are prowling mailboxes looking for information to use for identity theft, or to sell or trade for drugs. That’s the sad reality. It happens every day all across the country, and although it is a federal crime, it is rarely prosecuted as such. In fact, most charged with mail theft are released with a slap on the wrist (probation, suspended sentence, etc.).

To protect yourself, (1) use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss – it can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver, and will keep thieves from stealing your credit card statements, tax documents, courtesy checks, account information, etc.; (2) do not send checks from an unsecured mailbox – instead take them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure; and (3) shred or burn sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them – this keeps thieves from stealing your mail from the trash.

Mailbox Destruction Being Investigated
The Baynet – 2/9/11

(NANJEMOY, MARYLAND) “Between February 6 – February 7, unknown suspects damaged 13 mailboxes in the 12000 block of Riverside Road in Nanjemoy. […]

COMMENTS: Mailboxes are frequent targets for vandalism but there are vandal proof alternatives including the Mail Boss. See, for example, this video which shows the Mail Boss vs. a baseball bat.

More importantly thieves can steal your personal information for identity theft from the mailbox, so be sure you use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep thieves from stealing your personal sensitive information.

Carson City woman jailed for allegedly stealing and cashing check from mailbox
Carson City News – 2/8/11

(CARSON CITY, NEVADA) Stephanie Rincon of Carson City was arrested and charged with obtaining money by false pretenses after she allegedly took a check from a mailbox and changed the payee to her name. Officers were alerted to the fraud after the victim sent four bill payments in his mailbox, and yet began to receive late payment fees when the checks were never received.

COMMENTS: Stolen mail is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal information for Identity Fraud and Identity Theft.

To protect yourself:

  1. SECURE INCOMING MAIL with a high security locking mailbox like MAIL BOSS – keep thieves from obtaining your bank statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks, tax documents, etc.
  2. NEVER SEND CHECKS from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Most ink can be easily washed and checks fraudulently cashed as in this case.
  3. SHRED OR DESTROY DOCUMENTS (most of which come in your mailbox) before throwing them away to prevent theives from being able to steal your personal sensitive information from the trash.

Mailbox theft could mean stolen identities
KAIT 8 – 2/8/11

(JONESBORO, ARKANSAS) A rash of mail theft in south Jonesboro Arkansas has residents concerned about identity theft. One victim, Ms. Anderson, was alerted to the problem when someone found her W2 tax form that had been stolen from her mailbox discarding in a hospital parking lot. Now, police say mail theft is occurring across south Jonesboro, but there is not much they can do about it.

While authorities say no police reports have been filed for mail theft since January 1, that does not mean the crime hasn’t been happening, since most people don’t even realize when their mail has been stolen. Meanwhile, mail carriers have indicated that some residents have been complaining about mail theft in the area. Now, authorities urge residents to report mail theft to the police if it occurs.

COMMENTS: Mail theft is a federal offense and it’s one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal information for identity theft, the fastest growing crime in the country. To protect yourself you need to use a high security locking mailbox. Even if you know when the mail carrier comes, there are some thieves so brazen they actually follow the postal carrier stealing mail! A secure locking mailbox will keep your mail safe until you retrieve it. Make sure your locking mailbox cannot be fished by hand or pried open easily with a screwdriver like the models in Home Depot and Lowe’s. A good option is the Mail Boss.

In addition to securing incoming mail, also never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Bring bill paymnets directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure! And as always, shred or burn sensitive documents rather than simply throwing them in the trash to thwart dumpster divers.

If you know your mail has been stolen (and most residents don’t even realize when they are victimized) immediately issue a fraud alert with a credit bureau (it’s free), file a police report, and notify the USPIS and the FTC. More info on what to do if your mail is stolen here.

Footprints in snow help catch burglar in Ark.
ABC 7 – 2/8/11

(VAN BUREN, ARKANSAS) When a couple discovered their car had been broken into and their laptop and some mail was stolen, they notified the authorities. When police arrived, they noticed there was a distinct set of footprints in the snow leading from the victims’ car, so they followed them. The trail led them to the couple’s discarding mail a ways down, and a bit further it led right up the steps to the suspect’s apartment. In the apartment, police found stolen mail and other stolen goods, and the suspect was arrested on multiple charges.

COMMENTS: Stolen mail is an epidemic across the country and nowhere is safe. To protect yourself from thieves prowling your mailbox for credit card information, tax documents and the like, use a high security locking mailbox that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried like the Mail Boss.

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