Mail Identity Theft: 5/8/11-5/25/11

Newspaper delivery man from Germantown arrested for mail theft: Germantown resident charged with stealing from boxes in Damascus, Etchison, Laytonsville
The Gazette – 5/25/11

(MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND) “A newspaper delivery man has been picking up other people’s mail as he dropped off papers along his route, according to Montgomery County Police. Officers arrested Andre L. Tyler of the 12900 block of Pickering Drive, Germantown on May 19 and charged him with 17 counts of theft, based on mail they found in his car, said Sgt. Jim Brown. “We won’t know until we finish our investigation how long he had been doing it,” said Capt. Luther T. Reynolds, commander of the 5th District police station.

Tyler delivered The Examiner newspaper late Wednesday nights or early Thursday mornings, Brown said. Since at least early December, he has been taking mail left overnight in mailboxes along his route on Hawkins Creamery Road, Griffith Road and state Route 108, Brown said. Tyler tossed the mail into his car’s backseat, Brown said, and at the end of the route he would sort through it, keeping gifts and credit cards and throwing out the rest. None of the discarded mail was recovered.

Delivering newspapers “was a great cover,” Brown said. Police learned that credit cards were being stolen in early April when a friend told Brown about more than $2,000 in charges on her credit card bill that were not hers. The friend’s mailbox is clustered with four or five others in the 5900 block of Griffith Road in Laytonsville, he said. Another mailbox owner told the friend the same thing had happened to her, Brown said.

Once county police realized they were dealing with mail fraud, they contacted the U.S. Postal Service and a joint investigation was launched in early April, Brown said. “We’re looking to indict this federally,” he said. Victims are coming out of the woodwork, Brown said. One man reported more than $4,800 in fraudulent charges between March 27 and April 26, according to police charging documents. […]”

Police found a Best Buy rewards card, two bank statements, 27 Flagship car wash tokens, five credit cards, assorted papers and six collector coins in Tyler’s car, according to police charging documents.

Credit card companies routinely send customers replacement cards about a month before cards expire. These cards are unsolicited and customers are usually not expecting them. Tyler was able to use the new cards without activating them, Brown said. When an expected package does not arrive customers think it was lost in the mail, he said. His friend had ordered T-shirts for Christmas. When they did not arrive she called the company and the order was re-sent, he said.

Tyler told U.S. Postal Inspector Robert Hein that he began delivering The Examiner in the Damascus, Etchison and Laytonsville area about 10 months before his arrest, according to the charging documents. He said he started opening mailboxes before Christmas. […]”

Of identity theft victims who know how their identity was stolen, about 2 percent report that it was through mail, according to a survey by the Federal Trade Commission. Possession of stolen mail is punishable by up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine, Schissler said.”

COMMENTS: The FTC statistics on mail-identity theft are inconsistent with research conducted by 3rd party Javelin Strategy, which indicates that the majority of ID theft victims do not know how their identity was stolen. Only 1/3 of victims know how their info was compromised and of those who do the majority indicate low-tech methods: stolen wallets, stolen mail and stolen trash! The reality is that mail theft is one of the easiest ways for identity thieves to obtain your personal and financial information. As indicated in this story, most people do not even realize when their mail has been stolen until it’s too late. In this case, victims may never have traced the source back to the mail if it weren’t for the fact that police apprehended to person responsible with stolen mail on his person.

The bad news is mail theft is easy to commit and hard to detect. The good news is it’s very easy to prevent: use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep your incoming mail safe from would-be identity thieves, and use precaution when sending mail. Never send checks or bill payments from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. And as always, shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers!

Police Blotter
The Issaquah Press – 5/24/11

(ISSAQUAH, WASHINGTON) “Coming attractions: Mail was stolen from a mailbox in the 20200 block of Southeast 24th Street for weeks prior to May 9. The caller said she had not received mail for several days, and some of the Netflix selections she had ordered had been delivered and returned during the time period. The estimated loss is unknown. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is a big problem in Sammamish and Issaquah. Our company’s owners live in Sammamish and had there mail stolen many times. Back in 2006, a police officer apprehended a pair of thieves in a motel room with hundreds of residents’ mail including theirs. That’s when they created the Mail Boss locking security mailbox for mail-identity theft prevention. It’s the best way to keep your identity safe from mail thieves. You can get it up on the plateau too from Sammamish Ace Hardware.

Long Branch Woman Arrested On Theft, Forgery Charges: Police say woman stole checks from mailboxes, cashed them
Wall Patch – 5/19/11

(WALL, NEW JERSEY) “A Long Branch woman has been arrested and charged in connection with mailbox theft and check forgery, police said Thursday. Helen J. Darden, 43, of Rockwell Ave., was arrested and charged May 11th with fourth degree theft by deception, two counts of third degree forgery and two counts of uttering a forged document, according to a release from Lt. Walter Pomphrey.

[…] Darden’s arrest was a joint effort between township authorities and the Howell Police Department and solves at least two of a string of six ongoing forgery investigations, Pomphrey said. The arrest stems from a cooperative investigation with Howell Detective Nancy Carroll, investigating various thefts from mailboxes during the month of April and May, Pomphrey said.

Checks stolen from mailboxes were then “washed out” and issued in Darden’s name and cashed at local banks. Wall Police are investigating a half dozen postal thefts, two of which are cleared by Darden’s arrest, Pomphrey said. […] Police are continuing to investigate mailbox thefts. Additional arrests are expected, Pomphrey said. […]”

COMMENTS: We hear stories about theft of outgoing mail frequently because police can catch these thieves more easily when they try and use the checks fraudulently. Theft of incoming mail is much less frequently reported (but occurs much more than you would think) because most people don’t realize their mail has been stolen, and police can rarely catch the culprits. Most times they are caught is during an unrelated arrest – for example a meth bust – and then the police discover loads of stolen mail. Given the prevalence of mail theft, residents need to take precautions: use a high security locking mailbox and never send checks or sensitive documents from an unsecured mailbox!

Belton: Brother, Sister Plead Guilty to Counterfeiting
KWTX – 5/19/11

waco_mail thieves(WACO, TEXAS) “William Carl Milicki and his sister Amanda Jean Milicki, both of Belton, pleaded guilty Thursday in Waco’s federal district court to counterfeiting U.S. Currency. […] The Bell County Organized Crime Unit arrested Anderson and the Malickis in February after an investigation that encompassed counterfeiting, mail theft, identity theft, forgery and narcotics in which at least 30 individual victims have been identified. Authorities recovered counterfeit cash, stolen property, a stolen vehicle and a number of stolen checks and credit cards, the organized crime unit said. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is often a crime that is highly interconnected with large scale criminal enterprise, ranging from identity theft rings to methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution. In this case, it looks like there are many elements present. These criminals will obtain sensitive information by whatever means necessary – mail theft, dumpster diving, skimming, phishing, etc. – and then use it fraudulently to create phony checks, open accounts under a victim’s name, and so on. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation, and most criminals when caught receive minimal punishment by comparison with other violent crimes. As such, it continues to be an attractive way for bad people to take advantage of the rest of us.

There are several ways to protect yourself. Most importantly, guard your personal information. Keep only the minimal identification and debit/credit cards on your person and store everything sensitive in a secure place. By that same token, guard your mail. Use a locking secure mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep incoming mail (bank statements, courtesy checks, credit card offers, etc.) safe until you retrieve them. Never send sensitive documents (bill payments, checks, etc.) from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay. Always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mail) before discarding them to keep thieves from stealing your identifying information from the trash! These simple steps will go along way in keeping your identity safe from enterprising criminal networks.

Woman accused of robbing checks in Howell, Wall
Asbury Park Press – 5/19/11

wall_NJ_mail_thief(WALL, NEW JERSEY) “Police have nabbed a woman suspected of grabbing checks out of mailboxes in Wall and Howell before altering the checks with her name and turning them into cash at local banks.

[…] Authorities say she would pull checks out of mailboxes after residents placed them in there for their mail carrier, alter them to include her name, change the amount of the check and cash them at local banks, police said. […] Police accuse Darden of altering checks on multiple occasions. […]”

Police continue to receive tips from potential victims as residents discover the discrepancy on their monthly bank statements, Dodd said. Police are encouraging residents not to place outgoing mail in their mailboxes, and to check monthly bank statements for any discrepancies. […]”

COMMENTS: Police often catch people who steal checks from outgoing mail, because when they try to fraudulently cash them they are on surveillance video, etc. However, thieves commonly target incoming mail as well, to find pertinent information for identity theft. Most victims do not realize their mail has been stolen. And in fact, research indicates the majority of ID theft victims have no idea how their information was compromised. To protect against mail-identity theft, people need to secure incoming mail with a locking mailbox like the Package Master, and be vigilant about not sending sensitive documents or checks from an unsecured mailbox. As always, shred sensitive documents that come in the mail before discarding them as well.

Missing your mailbox?
Times Beacon Record – 5/19/11

(LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK) “A 29-year-old male living on Concord Circle in Port Jefferson Station was arrested May 4 at a location on North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station and charged with eight counts of criminal possession of stolen property. Police stated the defendant was found in possession of numerous mailboxes owned by multiple subjects. […]”

COMMENTS: While it is unusual for thieves to steal an entire mailbox rather than simply the contents, I would still venture to guess that it’s not your tin breadbox they are after. What you receive in your mailbox is highly valuable to identity thieves, from bank account statements to credit card offers and even utility bills! That’s why it’s so important to use a high security locked mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure your incoming mail. In addition, never send sensitive documents from an unlocked mailbox; instead, bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay.

Police Log: A Narcotics Violation, Mail Theft and a Discarded Mattress
Holliston Patch – 5/18/11

(HOLLISTON, MASSACHUSETTS) “Monday, May 16 […] 2:14 p.m.: A Washington Street resident reported that mail had been stolen from his mailbox. […]”

COMMENTS: If you live near Holliston and you’re interested in protecting your privacy and your identity with a Mail Boss locking security mailbox, try Hopkinton Lumber. They’re an authorized Mail Boss retailer!

Police Blotter for May 17: A roundup of Enumclaw police reports from Tuesday, May 17.
Enumclaw Patch – 5/18/11

(ENUMCLAW, WASHINGTON) “[…] Malicious Mischief: Malicious mischief and mail theft was reported from multiple locations on Warner Avenue and Charwila Lane at 5:50 a.m. Additional damage to lawn lighting on Scandia Avenue and garbage cans strewn around the neighborhood were also reported. At least two addresses on Warner Avenue and five addresses on Charwila Lane were affected. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is very common in western Washington and particularly in areas with methamphetamine problems. To protect yourself use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, available in Enumclaw at Gateway True Value.

Thousands in Checks Stolen from U.S. Mail
FOX 5 – 5/16/11

(ATLANTA, GEORGIA) “Postal inspectors say thousands of dollars in checks have somehow been stolen from the U.S. mail. The checks were intended for several Georgia businesses, but they ended up in the wrong hands.

Inspectors say this kind of white collar crime is happening more and more. And with millions of people receiving some type of check in the mail, anyone can become a victim.

Millions of pieces of mail move through our country everyday. So, when an expected check never arrives, alarm bells immediately go off. Sarah Dixon, a rising sophomore at Georgia Tech, says her IRS refund check was stolen, and she says it was scary because if it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone.

The United States Postal Service says it’s happening to several Georgia businesses, including a nursing home, a fabric company, a supply company and lawn care company. Inspectors say numerous checks from across the country in states as far away as California, Delaware and Wisconsin have somehow been intercepted before reaching the intended business in Georgia.

Federal inspectors say the second layer of the scam involves setting up accounts at banks like Suntrust and Bank of America. Recently, there was a break in the case. A photo was released of a woman postal inspectors believe is part of this national identity theft and check stealing case. […] Authorities say five to 10 businesses are involved so far.”

COMMENTS: Sending or receiving sensitive mail including checks makes you, your business, etc. vulnerable to check fraud and identity theft. Mail theft is an epidemic and most people do not realize when their mail is stolen – criminals use the information for check fraud and identity theft. Use a high security locking mailboxes to secure incoming mail, and never send checks from an unsecured mailbox. Instead, bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure!

I-Team: 9,464 customers report lost or stolen mail – Victim, ex-postal worker describes big problems
ABC – 5/16/11

(TAMPA, FLORIDA) “How safe is your mail? An I-Team investigation uncovers thousands of reports of stolen or lost mail. Back in March, I-Team investigator Michael George exposed more than 90 reports of stolen gold jewelry from mail intended for the Cash4Gold company. Now, new information shows the problem is much bigger than any one business or post office.

Donna Waag says she was a victim of mail theft. Waag is a Polk County resident […] Then, when Waag sent gifts to her grandkids and other family members for Easter, it was the same story. 13 different envelopes headed to 13 different locations, containing gift cards, checks, and cash. She says none of them reached their destination.

The problem of lost or stolen mail is bigger than you might realize. Statistics obtained from the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General show the number of allegations of lost or stolen mail nationwide is rising. In 2008 there were 3,144 allegations. In 2009, the number rose to 7,016. And in 2010, it again rose to 9,464. […]

The USPS Office of the Inspector General says mail theft arrests are extremely rare. The agency reported only 416 arrests out of 584,000 employees in 2010. They also say the number of arrests has stayed constant over the last few years.

The agency attributes the rise in allegations of mail theft to an internal reorganization. In 2007, the Office of the Inspector General assumed responsibility for mail theft investigations, rather than the Postal Inspection Service. They argue that the increase in allegations is due to the word is getting out about where to report allegations.

They also add that the vast majority of mail theft suspects arrested are members of the public, not postal workers. In 2010, the USPS Office of the Inspector General reported 416 arrests of postal employees and contractors, but 2,860 arrests of non-employees. […]

[…] If you’re a victim, act fast: If you believe your letter or package was lost or stolen, contact the postal inspector immediately and give them as many facts as you can. File an insurance claim as quickly as possible, and check your credit to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft (thieves can get your bank account information from a check). Contact your bank to let them know to keep an eye out for unusual activity. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is vastly under reported. Most people do not even realize when their mail has been stolen. Many times valuable items do not reach their destination because thieves steal mail right out of curbside mailboxes! To protect yourself use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. Also, never send sensitive documents or mail with account information or valuables from an unsecured mailbox – bring these items directly to the post office or use online bill pay.

Police: Men Stole Checks From Tri-State Companies – 6 Charged In Atlanta-Based Stolen Check Ring
WLWT 5 – 5/16/11

(CINCINNATI, OHIO) “A judge set bond Monday for six men charged in connection with a stolen check ring based in Atlanta that operated in the Tri-state area. According to court documents, Kenneth Bailey, Juan Armstead and Stefhon Acholes received three stolen checks Friday. […] [A]uthorities said stolen checks worth more than $100,000 were hidden in the glove compartment.

The checks had been stolen from the mail, investigators said, and the account information was used to print counterfeit checks. The group […] picked up homeless people around Cincinnati to cash the checks at area banks, investigators said. […]”

COMMENTS: Sending or receiving sensitive mail including checks makes you, your business, etc. vulnerable to check fraud and identity theft. Use a high security locking mailboxes to receive mail, and never send checks from an unsecured mailbox. Instead, bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure!

Detectives urge caution with mail
Aurora Advertiser – 5/15/11

(AURORA, MISSOURI) “Springfield and surrounding communities in have been hit recently by mail theft, according to a report from detectives with the Aurora Police Department. What the suspects have apparently been doing is stealing mail from mailboxes and then looking through the mail for checks and other personally-identifying information in the victim’s mail.

If the suspects find checks, they then either wash the ink off the check or they print new checks. They also print a fake ID with the victim’s information and use the washed or printed check along with the fake ID to write checks at various businesses. The victims often don’t find out that their checks didn’t make it to the intended recipients until the intended recipients notify them that the bill wasn’t paid.

Suspects have apparently been driving through neighborhoods and looking for mailboxes that have the flags up. When they find a mailbox with the flag up, they steal the mail and look through it for checks and personally identifying information.

Local residents can minimize their risk of being a victim of fraud by the following tips:

  • Don’t mail anything through your own mailbox. Deposit outgoing correspondence in the mail box at the post office.
  • Minimize the amount of time that your incoming mail sits in your mailbox. If you are gone on vacation, get a trusted neighbor or family member to pick up your mail, daily if possible. Alternatively, you can have the post office stop delivery of your mail until you return.
  • Per 18 U.S.C. 1725, non-mail cannot be placed in your mailbox. If you should see someone other than a postal employee accessing your mailbox, call the police.
  • Shred all personal identifying information before throwing it in the trash.”

COMMENTS: These recommendations leave out the most important point and easiest solution to mail theft prevention, and that is the use of a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep thieves from stealing incoming mail for identity theft. Yes, thieves take checks from the outgoing mail if they see the red flag up. Checks can be washed and fraudulently cased for quick easy cash! But they also steal your incoming mail (and most people don’t even realize it’s gone missing) to find sensitive information that can be used for identity theft.

Southeast Springfield Neighborhood is Victim of Mail Theft: Some residents of Cinnamon on the Hill say they have had mail stolen out of their mailboxes.
KSPR 33 – 5/14/11

(SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI) “People who live in one southeast Springfield neighborhood say they are the victims of theft. But there’s not a whole lot they can do about it. That’s because it’s not a matter of simply keeping things under lock and key.

[…] “I put mail out in the mailbox at 12:15 a.m.” By 8:30 a.m. that mail was gone; Fromme never heard a thing. “Thankfully they were just contest entries and I had used a gut feel and mailed all the bills up at the mailbox at Harter House,” Fromme explains, relieved.

Neighborhood watch has been vigilantly tracking mail theft in Cinnamon on the Hill. It’s happened to at least three other residents.

“It’s normally not a common problem. I think with today’s economy it’s gotten to be a bigger problem,” says Colleen Smith, the postal worker for the area. Nationally mail theft accounts for ten percent of postal crime. In Fromme’s case the thieves made out with very little, but the experts estimate they’re usually after tax refunds and social security checks.

“I probably get five sets of checks a week from credit card companies wanting you to cash them. What if somebody took that?” Fromme wonders aloud. Fromme tries not to give them much of a chance; she stops mail service when she leaves town. The problem is many others just stop getting their mail. “There’s a lot of customers that will leave their mail in their boxes two or three days at a time,” says Smith.

Fromme believes in preventative measures. “I won’t put any checks in the mail anymore here.” That may account for her two-crime a decade track record.

The post office doesn’t necessarily recommend not using your own mailbox for outgoing mail altogether though, but workers say you shouldn’t put your mail in there the night before. […]”

COMMENTS: Of course the postal service doesn’t recommend not using the mail – they have a vested interest in Americans continuing to trust and use the USPS. However, the sad reality is that mail theft is quickly on the rise, and it is vastly under reported, because most people do not realize when their mail has been stolen.

Research by Javelin Strategy indicates the majority of known ID theft originates via “low-tech” methods including stolen wallets and stolen mail. To protect yourself, outgoing mail should not be left in an unsecured mailbox, especially if it has sensitive personal information like checks or bill payments. Incoming mail is often targeted for ID theft, too. The best defense is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that keeps your mail under lock and key. That way you do not need to hold your mail when you go out of town, etc. or “promptly” pick it up. (Some thieves are so brazen they follow the postal carriers!) As always, shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox!) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Briefly In Public Safety: Suspected mail robbers arrested
Coastline Pilot – 5/12/11

(LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA) […] “Three people were arrested in the 800 block of Bluebird Canyon at 8:13 a.m. May 5 after officers noticed they were acting suspiciously and pulled over their vehicle. The officer noticed large amounts of suspicious property in their vehicle. After investigating, they deduced that the suspects had been driving around, stealing mail from mailboxes […]. Some of the property in their vehicle was determined to be stolen from a South Laguna residence.

Clifford Wayne Cameron, 32, of Santa Ana, Danielle Nicole McCaughey, 29 of Orange, and Gerald Adam Royster, 30, of Long Beach, were all arrested for receiving stolen property, mail theft and conspiracy to commit a felony. After a parole search of their Anaheim hotel room, officers discovered more stolen property and methamphetamine. Cameron and McCaughey were charged with possession of a controlled substance, according to Sgt. Louise Callus.”

COMMENTS: Methamphetamine use often goes hand in hand with mail-identity theft, as criminals steal mail to sell or trade for drugs. Mail is then used to commit identity theft. To protect yourself from the meth/identity theft epidemic, use a high security locked mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be easily violated. In Laguna Beach, ask for the Mail Boss curbside mailbox by name at Ganahl Lumber or Crown Ace Hardware.

Police Log: Package stolen from front stoop
Tracy Press – 5/12/11

(TRACY, CALIFORNIA) “[…] 10:57 a.m.: A caller said someone stole mail, including a $100 pair of sunglasses, from a mailbox on the 1300 block of Standridge Court. […]”

COMMENTS: To protect yourself from the fast-growing crime of mail-identity theft, get the Mail Boss locking security mailbox at Van’s Ace Hardware in Tracy!

Police blotter: May 12, 2011
The Union – 5/12/11

(NEVADA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA) “Editor’s note: The Police Blotter consists of excerpts from dispatch reports by area law enforcement agencies. These reports are public record. […] 2:25 p.m. — A caller from the 14000 block of Torrey Pines Drive reported the theft of mail. […] 6:57 a.m. — A caller from the 14000 block of Misty Winds Lane reported the front of a mailbox had been pried open and mail stolen. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is very common in Nevada County, so residents should take precautions. First and foremost, get a high security locking mailbox to prevent theft of incoming mail. In addition, never send checks or bill payments from your mailbox. Online bill payment is much more secure!

Mail Thieves At Work In Orinda, Lafayette? Phone calls and emails from concerned neighbors alert us to a possible rash of mail theft in Lamorinda.
Lamorinda Patch – 5/11/11

(ORINDA, CALIFORNIA) “Police in Lafayette and Orinda have been notified as residents in both cities reported strangers rifling the mailboxes in their neighborhoods in recent days. A number of mailboxes on Claremont Avenue in Orinda were rifled Monday, neighbors said, with several more homes near McDonnell nursery reported Wednesday.

“No one saw them,” said one resident, who requested anonymity. “My neighbor picked up his mail today at 1. I know we had mail delivered because today is the day we get that big packet of ads (Pennysaver and such) and there is a little ripped piece of one of the ad pieces on the side of our mailbox.”

At about the time neighbors in Orinda were reporting the loss of their mail police in Lafayette responded to a call from at least one homeowner on Reliez Valley Road reporting that a person in a car was systematically rummaging through the mailboxes of homes there. It is not known if police were able to make contact with the individual. In the past, it has been found that thieves follow mail or delivery trucks in rural areas, stealing mail and packages off the doorstep before owners can retrieve them.

COMMENTS: A locking mailbox is a solution! Unfortunately most can be easily fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. Any locked mailbox will offer deterrence for thieves but many thieves know which mailboxes can be fished or pried open and they steal from these locking mailboxes. If you’re going to invest in a locking mailbox, make sure it’s one that is made of quality materials and can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open. Some quality models include the Mail Boss as well as Fort Knox and Armadillo (not ours, but made in the USA!)

Howell Police Looking For Suspect in Reported Mail Box Thefts
Howell Patch – 5/11/11

(HOWELL, NEW JERSEY) “Residents in the Ramtown section of Howell have recently been reporting incidents of items being stolen directly from their mailboxes. According to Sgt. Eileen Dodd of the Howell Police Department, residents are reporting that when they put items in their boxes for outgoing mail, they are being stolen. This is particularly true for checks being mailed out for bill payment and other uses.

The report from Dodd goes on to say that the check is then being altered by the person responsible, including the name of the payee and the amount of the check written. While some instances are being reported by the banks that receive the checks, other times the residents themselves are noticing the problem when they get their statements from the banks. Dodd said reports of these occurrences started in the middle of April and are still happening almost a month later.

howell mail thiefPolice are looking for 43-year-old Helen Darden, who has allegedly been putting her name on the payee line of the checks and using her identification to cash them. Darden is described as a black female, 5’1″ and 130 pounds. She may be driving a 1997 white Ford Sedan with New York plates FDD5163. In addition to the complaints signed in Howell, Darden also faces similar charges in Wall, Brick and Avon. It is believed Darden lives somewhere near Asbury Park.

In light of the recent events police are encouraging residents not to put outgoing mail in their mailboxes. They are also being asked to check their monthly bank statements for any potential problems, Dodd said. […]”

COMMENTS: Sensitive outgoing mail is commonly targeted by thieves looking for easy pickings for check fraud and identity fraud. To protect yourself, never send checks or bill payments from your mailbox. Mail thieves can steal them just as easily as the mail carrier can pick them up, and it is not difficult to wash the checks and alter payee information. By that same token, your incoming mail has a plethora of information criminals can use for identity theft. It’s important to use a secure locked mailbox such as the Mail Boss to keep your sensitive personal information out of the hands of would-be identity thieves.

Spartanburg woman indicted on federal charges of mail theft
Spartanburg Herald Journal – 5/11/11

(SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA) “A Spartanburg woman arrested by local authorities in December has been indicted federally for stealing mail. Teresa Miner Grell, 43, of Spartanburg, was charged in a two-count indictment with theft of stolen mail and stealing the identity of another person on Tuesday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Grell was charged by the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office in December with transaction card fraud of more than $500 in a six-month period, but local investigators named her as a suspect in seven cases involving mail theft and forgery. Most of those thefts took place in neighborhoods on the eastern side of Spartanburg County. […] The case was investigated by U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents. […]

In an unrelated case, Glenda Bryant Perry, 44, of Greer, was charged Thursday in a federal indictment with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Perry faces 20 years in prison on the charge, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

COMMENTS: Could this be the conclusion of almost a year of mail theft in the news in Spartanburg? Probably not, since mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain sensitive information for identity theft. Unfortunately, though, mail theft often goes unnoticed and is highly under reported. Just because this woman is *finally* behind bars does not mean your mail is safe.

To protect yourself, use a quality locked mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, and never send checks from your residential mailbox. Use online bill pay instead; it’s more secure. Of course, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before throwing them away, to keep these scum from stealing your identity from the trash too!

Police Arrest Man Linked to Multiple Burglaries
Mission Viejo Patch – 5/10/11

(MISSION VIEJO, CALIFORNIA) “Police arrested a 20-year-old Mission Viejo man […] after finding out that the vehicle he was driving was reported stolen […]. After conducting a search, police found multiple stolen items in the vehicle and in the home of Julio Eduardo Rodriguez Villanueva. The stolen items included credit cards, computers and mail, said Police Investigator Brad Broadhead.

“We conducted a search of that vehicle and his home and found other stolen material like stolen mail and checks and that’s what led us to some residents in Mission Viejo, Costa Mesa, Placentia and Norwalk,” Broadhead said. “The investigators are still trying to piece that together because a lot of people don’t even know they are victims.” […]”

COMMENTS: I would venture to guess that none of the victims of mail theft realized their information was stolen. They are very lucky this man was apprehended, otherwise they were likely to become victims of identity theft when this guy either used their information fraudulently or sold it to other criminals who would have done so. Most people do not realize when their mail is stolen, as they don’t know what comes from day to day. Most people do not realize until it is too late! The best defense is a high quality locked mailbox like the Mail Boss. Also, do not send checks from an unsecured mailbox – use online bill pay instead. And of course, shred your mail before throwing it away!

Woman pleads guilty to stealing mail in four metro-east cities
Belleville News-Democrat – 5/10/11

(BELLEVILLE, ILLINOIS) “An unemployed Montana woman pleaded guilty Monday to stealing mail from residential mailboxes in four metro-east cities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Nicole Marie Lance, 30, of Billings, Mont., was convicted of six counts of mail theft in federal court, court documents state. Lance had been indicted in January for stealing outgoing mail from mailboxes in Belleville, Fairview Heights, Lebanon and Fairview Heights. […] She had stolen items of value from the mail, including checks that she altered to make payable to herself to present to money services for cash. […] She had previous convictions for possession of a controlled substance, forgery, mail theft, destruction of evidence and retail theft, court documents state.

Lance was caught by police on Dec. 24 after officers noticed she matched the description of a suspect who was reported to have attempted to steal mail from a mailbox in Highland. She was followed to a Quiznos restaurant where police made contact with her and retrieved stolen mail from the toilet tank in the ladies’ rest room. Further investigation of her vehicle and the residence where she had been staying, revealed additional stolen mail.

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal information for identity theft. To protect yourself, use the Mail Boss high security locking mailbox by Epoch Design. Near Belleville, you can find the Mail Boss at your local Ace Hardware or Rural King. To find a Mail Boss dealer near you, use our store locator.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms found during arrest
Gilroy Dispatch – 5/9/11

gilroy_mail_thieves(GILROY, CALIFORNIA) “An off-duty law enforcement officer’s report of suspected mail theft led to the arrest of three people who were in possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms Thursday night, according to the Gilroy Police Department. Heather Blackbourn, 22, Mario Santiago, 32, and Brittany Morales, 21, were arrested after officers found the illegal mushrooms, along with burglary tools, stolen property and a weapon in their vehicle when police responded to a report of a suspicious female stealing mail, police said.

At about 10 p.m., the officer noticed a woman taking mail from mailboxes in the 7300 block of Fowler Street, police said. […] A short time later, the vehicle that dropped off the woman returned to pick her up, and GPD officers soon arrived and conducted a traffic stop, police said. […] A parole compliance check was conducted, and police located several items of mail which did not belong to the occupants of the vehicle, burglary tools, an illegal weapon, stolen property and an undisclosed amount of suspected Psilocybin mushrooms determined to be for sale, according to the GPD.”

COMMENTS: Mushrooms? That’s a first. Usually these mail thieves are methamphetamine addicts and/or dealers. Regardless, mail-identity theft is on the rise, and it is very common in Gilroy and the Santa Clara area… has been for sometime. People need to take precautions to protect themselves. Use a high security mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep thieves from stealing incoming mail. Unlike most “secure” mailboxes in Lowes and Home Depot, it cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. Also, never send sensitive documents from your mailbox. Use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Finally, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them.

Man pleads guilty to mail theft
KFDM 6 – 5/9/11

(BEAUMONT, TEXAS) “From U.S. Attorney’s Office – A 59-year-old Beaumont man has pleaded guilty to federal charges in the Eastern District of Texas […].Webster Louis Winters pleaded guilty to possessing stolen mail today […]. […] Winters was arrested by Beaumont Police as he attempted to pass a forged and stolen check in the amount of $2,400 […] in Beaumont. An investigation revealed that […] Winters and at least two other individuals stole mail, including checks, from mailboxes in the Beaumont area, which they then attempted to forge or pass. […]”

COMMENTS: To protect against identity theft, consumers need to secure their mail. The solution is 3-fold: (1) Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail; (2) do not send sensitive documents (i.e. checks) from an unsecured mailbox – bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay; and (3) always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers. You can find the Mail Boss security mailbox in Beaumont at Sutherlands.

Cape Coral man caught stealing from cars
NBC 2 – 5/9/11

(CAPE CORAL, FLORIDA) “A 23-year-old man faces charges after a deputy caught him stealing items […] in Bonita Springs over the weekend, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Charles DeRobbio of Cape Coral is charged with burglary and larceny. According to an arrest report, a deputy on Saturday morning spotted DeRobbio sitting in the driver’s seat of a car at 25786 Old Gaslight Drive with a bag of stolen items between his legs. The bag reportedly contained jewelry, someone’s mail and other items. […]”

COMMENTS: People might wonder why this man bothers stealing mail when jewelry is so much more valuable. Well, the value of mail to a thief is the information it contains. Bank account numbers, social security numbers, credit card information and more can all be used for identity theft. How much is your good name worth to you? Protect yourself with a Mail Boss security mailbox to prevent theft of your incoming mail. In Cape Coral, ask for the Mail Boss by name at True Value of Cape Coral. Just reference Vendor 46748!

Daily log — May 8
The Advertiser-Tribune – 5/8/11

(TIFFIN, OHIO) “[…] A person was at the station Friday afternoon to report the mail theft. […]”

COMMENTS: To protect yourself from mail theft, use the Mail Boss locking security mailbox. In Tiffin, you can purchase the Mail Boss at Tiffin Ace Hardware – just mention Vendor 38261. That’s us!

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