Mail Identity Theft: 3/11/11-3/17/11

Castle Hills police: Mailbox theft ring clears out $15,000 in stolen checks
KENS5 – 3/17/11

castlehillsmailthief(CASTLE HILLS, TEXAS) “UPDATE: Thursday afternoon police arrested Justin Ayer, who is suspected to be the leader of an alleged mailbox theft ring. Ayer is now in custody.

Castle Hills police are warning residents about an alleged mailbox crook.

They say Justin Ayer is the leader of a theft ring that is stealing checks out of area mailboxes. They claim once the suspect gets his hands on the checks, he recruits others to cash the checks for him for a small cut of the take.

So far, authorities believe Ayer is responsible for about $15,000 worth of stolen checks. They believe there are ten to twelve people in the mailbox theft ring. Authorities have issued four arrest warrants, and five more are possible.

The U.S.Postal Inspection Service is now involved in the investigation.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your information for ID theft. Crooks can steal checks from the outgoing mail and use your routing /account number to forge new checks, or wash the stolen checks with acetone and fraudulently cash them. To prevent this, never send checks or sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Bring bill payments directly to the post office or use online bill pay-it’s much more secure.

You also need to take precautions to secure incoming mail, which contains a plethora of sensitive information from bank account statements to pre-approved credit card offers and tax documents. Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. Don’t settle with a low-security mailbox like the “hopper bin” locked mailboxes in the big-box hardware store, as thieves can easily reach their hands in the incoming mail bin or simply pop the lock open with a screwdriver.

Near Castle Hills, you can find the Mail Boss at D & D Farm and Ranch or ask for it by name at any Ace Hardware or True Value.

Mail theft hits 300 in Queens Village: Resident – 3/17/11

(QUEENS VILLAGE, NEW YORK) “Residents on 105th Avenue in Queens Village should not be the only ones concerned about identity theft after one homeowner discovered that stolen mail has affected 300 homes in the area.

Some residents of the block received a letter Feb. 25 from the United States Postal Inspection Service, telling them that “mail was stolen from your letter carrier’s route.”

[…] Charlton D’souza, a 105th Avenue resident who has been the most vocal about the stolen mail, said the letter carrier for his block told him last week that 300 homes were affected by the theft.

“We don’t know if people’s identity has been messed up,” D’souza said. “As residents, we’re trying to organize. We’re trying to get something done on this issue.”

Giovana Bomber, a resident of 105th Avenue, said she was shocked to hear about the missing mail.

“I thought it was strange,” she said. “To take it from the carrier, that’s strange. I figured our neighborhood was safe.”

Bomber said she thought about installing a more secure mailbox, even though that is not how the Postal Inspection Service said the theft occurred.

Yesult Belfort, the U.S. postal inspector who sent a letter notifying residents of the theft, said Tuesday that about 300 homes were affected.

“We don’t have an exact number because the mail truck was broken into,” she said, noting the investigation that started last month is still ongoing.

Maxine Blake, an 105th Avenue resident, said she did not receive her state income tax check, which she was expecting in the mail last month.

While Belfort said she did not hear about that specific complaint, others in the area called her about missing checks and credit cards.

“We’re still receiving calls from people that are actually missing checks and credit cards — something that can leave a paper trail,” she said. […]”

COMMENTS: In this case, it sounds like mail was stolen from the mail truck so there is not a whole lot the residents could have done to prevent it; however the USPS should have been more diligent in notifying potential victims so they could take preventative measures to stop identity theft.

In general, though, mail theft is on the rise and residents need to take precautions. The first defense is a secure locking mailbox like the Mail Boss – keep thieves from stealing your tax documents, bank account statements and more right out of your mailbox. Never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox – instead use online bill pay whenever possible. And always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them.

Suspect in Clear Creek crime spree, foothills chase identified
Denver Post – 3/16/11

denvermailthief(DENVER, COLORADO) “A woman who was in a car yesterday that led police on chase out of the foothills into southwest Denver has been identified.

Bonnie Jean Arguello-Pool, 39, is being held at the Clear Creek County Jail on suspicion of several criminal counts, including burglary, mail theft and eluding police, said Capt. Bruce Snelling of the Clear Creek Sheriff’s Office.

With the help of two men who remain at large, Arguello-Pool is suspected of stealing mail from at least two subdivisions in Clear Creek County Monday night into Tuesday monring, Snelling said. […]

“They were on a mini crime spree,” Snelling said.

[…] At about 8 a.m. Tuesday a state trooper spotted the Grand Am in the Evergreen area, near Highway 74 and Jefferson County Road 73 and tried to stop it, but the driver took off.

As the Grand Am sped toward Denver, people in the car threw stolen mail out of the windows, Snelling said.

Eventually the driver of the Grand Am caused a non-injury crash […]. […] Arguello-Pool was arrested at the scene. Police found drug paraphernalia on her, Snelling said, and she has not been cooperative with investigators.

Snelling said investigators doubled back along the chase route and recovered lots of stolen mail.

“They threw it out in about three different places,” Snelling said. “We ended up with about three bags full of mail.””

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your sensitive information for identity theft. (Javelin Strategy reports stolen wallets/purses, mail, trash as the most common sources for ID theft). In your mailbox thieves can find a plethora of personal sensitive documents, from bank account statements to pre-approved credit card offers and tax returns. To protect yourself, take these steps:

  1. Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. Don’t use a low-security option available at the big-box stores as they can be easily violated.
  2. Never send sensitive documents or checks from your mailbox. If you must use checks, bring them to the post office. Otherwise, use online bill pay – it’s more secure.
  3. Shred or destroy sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before throwing them away to thwart dumpster divers.

You can find the Mail Boss in the Denver area at Indian Peaks Hardware, McGuckin True Value, Buffalo Lock and Key, D&G Hardware, Lake Ridge Ace Hardware, or ask for it by name at any Ace Hardware or True Value.

Police Report: Upset About a Chore, Theft of Mail: Waukesha Police Department calls from March 15 and March 16
Waukesha Patch – 3/16/11

(WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN) “[…] In other Waukesha Police Department calls:

  • The theft of mail was reported at 9:01 a.m. Tuesday in the 1900 block of Bonnie Lane. […]”

COMMENTS: Near Waukesha, Elliott Ace Hardware has the Mail Boss locking security mailbox, which secures your mail from would-be identity thieves. Galvanized steel construction and patented security features stop mail-identity theft and vandalism.

Police looking for mail thieves
The Times Daily – 3/16/11

(ST. FLORIAN, ALABAMA) “Police Chief Ralph Richey is trying find the person responsible for taking mail out of mailboxes.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we had four reports of people having their mail gone through and some items were taken,” Richey said.

He said the mailboxes where the mail was taken or rummaged through was in the Kilburn Beach area and on Lauderdale 122.

The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department has also had at a few similar incidents reported. Those locations were scattered throughout the county.

“We believe it’s people riding around looking for the mail to come and then going through it to see if any checks were delivered or anything else of value,” Richey said.

He said people need to be aware that this is happening and to make arrangements not to leave checks or anything of value in their mailboxes.

“If you’re expecting something and you can’t be at home when it arrives, if possible make arrangements for someone else to pick up the mail. Just don’t leave it in the mailbox,” Richey said.

Also, he stressed that people who pay bills through the mail with checks, shouldn’t leave them in the mailbox. […]”

COMMENTS: Do not put checks in the mail. They will get stolen and you won’t know until it’s too late. By that same token, do not receive mail at your home unless you have a secure locking mailbox. Your mail can be stolen by would-be identity thieves and you won’t know until it’s too late. The solution is easy: Get a security locking mailbox like the MailBoss or the Package Master, and use online bill pay. Also, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them to prevent criminals from stealing your ID right out of the dump!

Mailboxes Damaged Overnight Monday
North Reading Patch – 3/16/11

(NORTH READING, MASSACHUSETTS) “The following is a look at some of the calls handled by the North Reading Police Department on Tuesday. The information is open to the public. Tuesday […] At 10:18 a.m., a caller reported mailboxes at some Main Street businesses were damaged overnight. […] At 3:46 p.m., an Old Andover Road resident reported that his mailbox was damaged sometime in the early morning hours. […]”

COMMENTS: Were the mailboxes damaged or were they tampered with to steal sensitive information? One is simply mailbox vandalism and the other is a federal offense. Given the epidemic of mail-identity theft, I’d bet on the latter. To protect your home or business from mail-identity theft use a quality locked mailbox like the Mail Boss, available locally near North Reading at LR Hart Hardware, Hopkinton Lumber, or any Ace Hardware by special order.

Highland officers honored for busting alleged mail thief
Highland News Leader – 3/16/11

(HIGHLAND, ILLINOIS) “Three Highland police officers have been recognized by the U.S. Postal Service for their help in arresting a former Billings, Mont., woman accused of stealing large amounts of mail from residential mailboxes in Madison and St. Clair counties.

[…] [U.S. Postal Inspector] Write said that Highland’s efficient police work has helped resolve mail theft cases on more than one occasion, and that, without their help, the suspects in those cases may have gotten away with it.

[…] According to Chief Terry Bell, Nicole M. Lance, 30, formerly of Montana and a supposed resident of O’Fallon at the time of the crimes, was arrested in January by Highland police after a resident of the Augusta Estates reported a woman rummaging through mailboxes in the neighborhood. […] Police searched a bathroom and discovered a large bundle of mail inside a toilet reservoir. Bell said that many of the envelopes recovered possessed Belleville, Swansea and Troy addresses.

[…] “Their ability to make this arrest helped solve an ongoing issue that reached beyond the limits of Highland. […]

Lance was indicted on Jan. 21 with six counts of mail theft, a federal offense, and could face up to five years in prison if convicted. All six counts stem from alleged mail thefts that occurred in St. Clair County between Dec. 13 and Dec. 23, 2010.

Lance was previously convicted of stealing mail contents in 2005 and sentenced to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to 13 such counts. Mail stolen in those instances were also taken from residential mailboxes in O’Fallon, Shiloh and Fairview Heights.

Highland police also helped foil a pair of mail thieves in March 2010 after a resident of Sunfish Drive reported a man and a woman removing mail from mailboxes. The tip eventually led to the arrest of Felicia F. Johnson, 42, and her son, Marquan Johnson, 25, both of Cahokia. […]”

COMMENTS: Thank you to the police officers of Highland for their work in stopping mail theft! Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain information for ID theft, as they can find a plethora of sensitive documents from bank account statements to credit card offers and tax returns in your mailbox. To protect yourself use a high security locked mail box like the Mail Boss – it can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver, and therefore offers superior theft protection by comparison with most locking mailboxes available. You can find the Mail Boss in the Highland area at Rick’s Ace Hardware, or at most any Ace Hardware or Rural King.

Knox County Sheriff Reports Car-Deer Accident, Mail Theft
Yankton Press & Dakotan – 3/15/11

(CENTER, NEBRASKA) “[…] The Knox County sheriff’s office is seeking information about the theft of mail from the Bradley J. Mahon home, located about two miles west of Verdel, Neb.

Mahon reported that sometime Friday he had found his mail box opened and mail missing from the box. Tampering with the U.S. Mail is a federal offense. […]”

COMMENTS: Near Center, the Mail Boss can be found at Bomgaars in Yankton, SD. With the Mail Boss, your mail is safe and secure until you retrieve it. No more fear of mail-identity theft!

Area man pleads guilty to stealing and using gift card
The Daily Republic – 3/15/11

(PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA) “A Wessington Springs man has pleaded guilty to stealing and using a gift card from the mail. […]”

COMMENTS: A gift card is probably the best possible thing you could have stolen from your mailbox, besides junk mail, that is. At least the victims is only out the cash value and not his/her identity! With the plethora of sensitive financial informaiton received in the mailbox, a secure locking mailbox like the Mail Boss is a must. Protect your credit card statements, bank account information, and other valuable information from would-be identity thieves.

Man arrested in alleged check scam
Madison Courier – 3/12/11

(TRIMBLE COUNTY, KENTUCKY) “The Trimble County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man Tuesday who allegedly stole checks from mailboxes over a two-month period.

Wilbur Riddle Jr., 31, of Stanford, Ky., faces two preliminary charges of theft of mail matter and one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Trimble County Sheriff Tim Coons said Riddle would wait until he felt the area was safe and grab mail out of a mailbox.

Riddle would look for envelopes that contained checks that had been written to pay bills, Coons said. He would take the checks out, throwing away the rest of the mail.

Coons said Riddle would often alter the checks so they would be worth more money. One had been altered to more than $1,300. Coons said Riddle was using the money to buy cocaine, and regularly spent more than $200 a day.

The arrest comes after a suspected two-month-long spree of stealing mail, Coons said. The thefts occurred in Trimble, Oldham, Carroll, Shelby, Franklin and Lincoln counties in Kentucky and Jefferson County in Indiana. Coons said there is a possibility of more counties being added to that list.

“Wilbur (Riddle) has a very extensive criminal history, and more importantly, he has been to jail for this same type of theft,” Coons said.

Carroll County Sheriff Jamie Kinman, Madison Police Chief Yancy Denning and Jefferson County Sheriff John Wallace all said they haven’t had any complaints about mail being stolen. […]

Coons said Riddle and his wife had been living in several different motels around Madison while the thefts were ongoing. […] Charges have only been filed in Trimble County. Coons has contacted an inspector with the U.S. Postal Service, who will investigate to determine if Riddle could be charged with a federal crime.

[…] Some victims have been identified in the case, but it remains unclear just how many incidents have occurred. So far, Coons said there are suspected to be more than 40 thefts of checks from the mail.

Kim Stark was one of the people who had had checks stolen from her mailbox. She realized her checks had been stolen Feb. 26 when she got a strange call from Fewell Farm Equipment in Campbellsburg.

Stark said Richard Fewell is a friend of her family and has sold them equipment in the past. Fewell called to ask if they had sent someone down to pick up tractor equipment from the store with a $500 check.

“That was our first alert that we had a check missing,” Stark said. “As soon as we hung up, we notified the sheriff.”

The credit union told Stark to watch her account online to check for the checks to be cashed. By March 2, Stark said three checks that were stolen from her mailbox had all turned up as being cashed at the same time.

Two of the checks were cashed electronically, meaning no identification was required to cash it. On two of the checks, a “1” was added in front of the check totals. The other check – which was used to buy a flat-screen TV at Sears – was completely rewritten for $1,346.

“How (the checks) went through is beyond me,” Stark said.

Coons is urging residents to check their records, check their bank statements and call the people who should be receiving the bills to make sure they haven’t had any checks stolen.

“You’re going to have people who are victims who don’t know they’re victims,” Coons said.

[…] Stark had one important piece of advice for anyone else who could be affected by this crime.

“I wouldn’t advise anyone to put things in their mailboxes,” she said.”

COMMENTS: It is not surprising the the Sheriffs had no reported victims. Most often when your mail (incoming or outgoing) is stolen you don’t realize until it is too late. In this case, the victim learned her outgoing bill payments had been taken when they were fraudulently cashed. When incoming mail is stolen, it is rarely missed, as savvy thieves often leave junk mail taking only sensitive information of value to them, letting you believe the mail was delivered as usual. Most people do not know when their important mail will be delivered- hence, the dilemma. The best protection is to receive your incoming mail in a high quality security locking mailbox and to never send checks from an unsecured mailbox. This two rules to live by will greatly reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft, since much identity theft originates from stolen mail.

Police Blotter: March 11, 2011 – 3/12/11

(GRASS VALLEY, CALIFORNIA) “[…] 12:13 p.m. — A woman from the 200 block of Sutton Way reported the theft of an ID card from a mailbox. She has a surveillance video, but an officer was unable to substantiate a theft. […]”

COMMENTS: Many identification cards and drivers licenses are often delivered via US Mail and if stolen can cause a great deal of concern, or worse, identity theft. Don’t receive valuable information such as personal identification, debit cards, credit cards in addition to all sorts of sensitive paper documents in your curbside mailbox unless it is secure! A quality secure locked mailbox will go a long ways in protecting you from the nightmare of mail-identity theft.

Suspects sought in mail fraud, forgery in KY, IN
WAVE 3 News – 3/11/11

KYMailFraud(TRIMBLE COUNTY, KENTUCKY) “The Trimble County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the help from the public in identifying victims of a recent mail theft and check forgery crime spree that has occurred in counties near Louisville. The theft of mail happened in Trimble, Oldham, Carroll, Shelby, Franklin, and Lincoln Counties in Kentucky and Jefferson County in Indiana.

According to a news release from Kentucky State Police, Trimble County Sheriff Tim Coons arrested 32 year old Wilbur Riddle Jr. of Stanford, Kentucky Tuesday night in Milton, Kentucky. Riddle and his wife are suspects in at least 40 different incidents of theft of mail from mail boxes in the above counties. Investigators believe Riddle forged checks he found in the mail boxes to obtain cash or items in order to purchase drugs.

[…] Some victims have already been identified in this case, but Sheriff Coons is asking that anyone have any knowledge of these crimes or who may have been victimized by Riddle to please call the Trimble County Sheriff’s Office with your information. […]”

COMMENTS: In Kentucky and Indiana, find the Mail Boss at your local Ace Hardware, True Value, or Rural King, and protect yourself from mail-identity thieves like Riddle.

Debit card stolen from mailbox
The Record Live – 3/11/11

(ORANGE COUNTY, TEXAS) “Thursday, Orange police received a call from Scott Grimm, stating that he had recently moved from Orange to Waco. Grimm told police that he was awaiting his income tax, which was being sent to the Orange address, and in the form of a pre-paid credit card.

Grimm stated that his refund would be in the form of a pre-paid VISA card from Turbo Tax, and that before he could have the delivery address changed, the card was delivered to the Orange address and stolen.

He said it had been used several times by an unknown person. Grimm stated that he did not authorize anybody to receive or use his debit card, and does want to prosecute if the offender is found.”

COMMENTS: It is not wise to receive a credit or debit card in your mailbox if your mailbox is not secure. If other individuals and potential thieves have access to your mailbox, you need to invest in a quality locking mailbox.

Thieves target HPP mailboxes
Hawaii Tribune-Herald – 3/4/11

(HILO, HAWAII) “Mail is being stolen from Hawaiian Paradise Park’s roadside mailbox clusters, leaving victims vulnerable to identity theft and forcing them to collect their mail in Keaau.

Both police and the U.S. Postal Service are investigating multiple incidents that started in mid-February and have spread to the Waa Waa area outside Pahoa, officials said.

“The boxes are being entered,” said police Lt. Glenn Uehana. “They’ve been pried open. We assume that mail is being removed.”

Uehana said there’s been three or four such incidents, each of which occurred during darkness and resulted in numerous mailboxes being emptied.

He said Waa Waa residents also have reported tampering with their mail.

Police have not yet made an arrest or identified a suspect, Uehana said.

The latest incident apparently happened Saturday and involved a cluster of mailboxes located along Makuu Drive, said June Conant, vice president of the Hawaiian Paradise Park Owners Association.

[…] Having a check stolen could lead to a missed mortgage payment and put a homeowner at risk of foreclosure, said Duke Gonzales, a Postal Service spokesman.

“The safety and security of the mail is of utmost importance to us,” he said. […]

Unlike in many other neighborhoods, the Postal Service does not deliver mail directly to homes in the sprawling Puna subdivision. Rather, it hires a private courier to bring mail from Keaau to mailbox clusters located along HPP’s major roads.

HPP has 15 main clusters containing 2,064 mailboxes that serve 3,881 households, a homeowners association official said.

That means nearly another 2,000 mailboxes are needed just to satisfy the current demand, which is certain to continue increasing, Conant said. Fewer than half of HPP’s 8,800 lots are developed.

“Our boxes are like gold in this community,” she said, noting some people keep them even after moving to another section of the large subdivision.

There’s currently a five-month wait to obtain a post office box in Keaau, Gonzales said. […]

The clusters, which can contain more than 100 individual boxes, are vulnerable because they aren’t that close to homes, limiting residents’ ability to watch them. […]

COMMENTS: These cluster boxes are also “like gold” to mail thieves! Cluster boxes (CBUs) are prime targets for mail thieves because if they can violate the primary locking mechanism they gain access to hundreds of residents’ mail. Generally, the locking mechanisms can be handily violated with a screwdriver or a crowbar. Residents would be wise to use the post office or petition for curbside delivery. There are residential secure locking mailboxes available that will protect you, including the Mail Boss. Other secure options include the Fort Knox and Armadillo. Beware though that most “secure” mailboxes available (including CBUs, unfortunately) and especially those at Lowe’s and Home Depot of the “hopper door” variety can be easily burglarized leaving you vulnerable to the nightmare of mail-identity theft. Of course, ANY “secure” mailbox can be violated if a thief wants it bad enough. But patented security features and quality construction of some mailboxes like Mail Boss give ultimate theft protection. Mail Boss is available in Hilo at Hilo Ace Hardware.

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