Mail Identity Theft – 6/23/11-7/4/11

Police: Woman stole disability checks out of mailboxes
Rome News-Tribune – 7/4/11

(ROME, GEORGIA) “A Rome woman spent her July 4 holiday in jail after being charged with two counts of theft by taking for allegedly stealing disability checks from a mailbox, according to reports.

Melissa Anne Jackson, 43, of 413-B Nixon Ave., Rome, is accused of taking two checks from the same Landrum Place mailbox on Saturday. The checks were made out for $88 and $649.

Jackson remained in jail on Monday on misdemeanor count of theft by taking and one felony count of theft by taking.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is not an uncommon occurrence in Rome, as there were stories in the Rome News-Tribune back in June, July and December of 2010. Residents need to take precautions to protect their mail and their identities. Use a high security locking mailbox like Mail Boss to prevent would-be identity thieves from obtaining your personal financial information, and never send sensitive documents or checks from an unlocked mailbox. In addition, shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents (most of which come in the mail!) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Reports to police
The News-Gazette – 7/4/11

(CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS) “[…] 1200 block of Nofftz Drive: Mail stolen from two mailboxes Friday. Other pieces of mail were scattered on the street. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain sensitive information for identity theft. Unfortunately, most people do not even realize when their mail is stolen! Protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, available in Champaign at Rural King or your local Ace Hardware. Also, never send sensitive documents from an unsecured mailbox – bring checks directly to the post office or use online bill pay, which is more secure. And of course shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them.

Lake Cherokee mail thefts investigated
KLTV 7 – 7/3/11

(LAKE CHEROKEE, TEXAS) “Gregg County authorities are trying to capture some high tech forgers, who are stealing mail from mailboxes and forging new numbers on legitimate checks. Investigators say the mailbox thefts have taken place in southern Gregg County around residential area’s of Lake Cherokee. Specifically they believe suspects were watching to see when the flags were up on the boxes.

“Its just terrifying to know there’s people watching your every move and watching your mail and waiting for your flag to be up, I think about my parents who are elderly,” says Lake Cherokee resident Kim Hicks.

Their target was any check that might be sent out in the mail. Using whatever tools of the trade, the forgers re-print the checks for much higher amounts. Amounts that could be disastrous to the victims.

“It would be devastating it could sweep out there bank accounts on a couple of checks someone writes and they wouldn’t even know,” Hicks says. […] The thefts have many residents uneasy.

“We have security 24 hours a day and to know that these guys are getting in and out of our roads and taking our mail, its really scary,” says area resident Victoria Bell. […]”

COMMENTS: Checks can be forged quite easily by “washing” the check with acetone and then altering the payee and the amount. Some brands of pen like the UniBall 207 are more difficult to wash, but the safest way to protect yourself is to bring bill payments directly to the post office (never leave them in an unsecured mailbox!) or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure.

One important point this article does not include is the real and growing problem of theft of incoming mail. It is far less frequently reported than theft of outgoing mail, only because it is harder to detect! Most people do not realize when their mail has been stolen, as savvy thieves will take sensitive account information and leave the junk mail, so victims’ do not notice anything suspicious. After all, how many of us know what we will receive in the mail from day to day?

To protect yourself, in addition to taking precautions sending sensitive mail, also use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail and protect your identity. Also, always shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents (many of which come in the mailbox!) before discarding them to keep thieves from stealing your ID right from the dumpster!

Two Teens Charged With Stealing Mail: Police find mail scattered along Cherry Hill Road Wednesday.
Patch – 6/30/11

(HAMDEN, CONNECTICUT) “Two town teenagers were arrested Wednesday evening after police found mail scattered along Cherry Hill Road.

Police got the report of mail theft in the area at about 7 p.m. Wednesday, according to police spokesman Capt. Ronald Smith.

At the scene Off. Mark Gery found the two youths, one 13 and the other 14, Smith said, and determined that they were responsible for the mail having been taken and thrown on the street.

The teens, whose identity wasn’t released because of their ages, were charged with sixth-degree larceny and third-degree criminal mischief. Both are scheduled to appear in New Haven Juvenile Court on July 13.”

COMMENTS: It’s pretty unusual to hear of kids so young stealing mail. Usually it’s methamphetamine addicts stealing mail to obtain sensitive information for identity theft – this funds their addiction. Regardless, this is a wake up call that the information you receive in your mailbox is often personal, sensitive or financial and you don’t want it in the hands of others, whether mischievous teens or would-be identity thieves. Use a high security mailbox to protect yourself and your privacy.

Spartanburg woman faces 15 years in identity-theft case – 6/30/11

(SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA) “[…] Evidence presented at the plea hearing established that on Dec. 3, 2010, Grell was arrested by Spartanburg police officers when she tried to pass a stolen and altered check at First Citizens Bank. In Grell’s car, officers found 81 pieces of stolen mail, a computer, check stock and other implements of counterfeiting, a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release said.

Officers also found handwritten notes containing the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of several people. Some of the stolen checks had already been altered to make them payable to Grell.

Further investigation found that Grell had been stealing mail in Spartanburg and Cherokee counties in the two months before her arrest, authorities said. They also said she created false driver’s licenses to use when passing the counterfeit or altered checks. […]”

COMMENTS: The people of Spartanburg have been waiting many months for Grell to be sentenced, and finally it looks like she’s actually going to do some jail time. Do not be mistaken, though. This does not mean that the mail in Spartanburg is now safe again. In reality, many drug addicts and criminals are turning to stealing mail to obtain sensitive information for identity theft. This is a growing trend, and homeowners need to use a locking mailbox to secure their mail and protect their privacy.

Sammamish Police Blotter: Police Responded to a Variety of Thefts and Fraud Cases Last Week
Sammamish Patch – 6/30/11

(SAMMAMISH, WASHINGTON) “Tuesday, June 21 […] Identity Theft: A Sammamish woman living on 192nd Avenue Southeast contacted police after discovering that someone was using her deceased husband’s identity. […]

Fraud: A Sammamish man living on 263rd Lane Southeast contacted police after he checked his credit report and discovered that his Social Security number was being used fraudulently. The man discovered 17 different fraudulent activities. […]

[…] Thursday, June 23 – Fraud: A woman living on 224th Place Northeast contacted police after her bank notified her of several unusual charges on her account. […]

Friday, June 24 – Mail Theft: A Sammamish woman living on Southeast 10th Court contacted police after a check she had left in her mailbox to be mailed disappeared before being picked up.”

COMMENTS: Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation, and one of the most common ways thieves obtain your personal information is by stealing mail. Most people don’t even realize when their mail has been stolen, and therefore have no idea how their ID was stolen. To protect yourself, be vigilant with your mail – use a locking security mailbox to secure your mail and prevent identity theft.

Sammamish Ace Hardware on the plateau offers high security locking mailboxes that will do the job!

Husband and wife team sentenced to prison for identity theft and fraud charges
KVOA 4 – 6/29/11

(TUSCON, ARIZONA) “A husband and wife were sentenced to prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, bank fraud, and mail theft.

[…] According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Tucson Police were patrolling a Tucson apartment complex after receiving tips of narcotics activity when they encountered William DePaul. He was in possession of both methamphetamine and a small glass smoking pipe. He also had numerous checks, account statements and IDs belonging to other people.

A search warrant of the DePaul’s residence yielded numerous items of false identification, account statements and checks belonging to dozens of victims […]. Police determined that the husband-and-wife team worked together in a sophisticated identity theft scheme to obtain the personal information from unsuspecting victims via stolen mail and other documents, and then used this information to create fake Arizona Driver’s Licenses and counterfeit checks, Sherwood said.

The DePauls would cash fraudulent checks at local businesses, Sherwood said. During the 3 years that they were operating, there were more than 180 victims of either identity theft or check fraud, with estimated losses well over $25,000. The DePauls had no legitimate employment during this period and both had chronic methamphetamine addictions, Sherwood said.”

COMMENTS: Identity theft is the most common way methamphetamine users obtain funds to support their addiction. MSNBC did a very interesting expose “The meth connection to identity theft” here.

These crooks work in sophisticated networks and they are opportunists: they will steal sensitive information however they can, and one of the most common ways is via mail theft. There are millions of unlocked mailboxes in the United States housing a plethora of sensitive information – bank account statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks, etc. – ripe for the plucking. Most victims do not even realize when their mail has been stolen, as we don’t know from day to day what is going to come in the mail.

Given the epidemic of mail-identity theft, it is of the utmost importance to use a high security locking mailbox like Mail Boss to secure your mail and protect your identity. Find the Mail Boss at any Ace Hardware in Tuscon!

Police report
Kansas City Star – 6/28/11

(KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI) “[…] East 126th Terrace, 500 block: Stolen mail. 10:14 p.m. May 19. […]”

COMMENTS: Stolen mail is a leading cause of identity theft. Use the Mail Boss secure mailbox to protect yourself. In Kansas City, you could find the Mail Boss at Westlake Ace Hardware or Suburban Lawn and Garden.

Missing mail was stolen
WALB 10 – 6/27/11

(VALDOSTA, GEORGIA) “A Florida man is accused of stealing mail out of Lowndes County mail boxes. Investigators were called to First State Bank in Lake Park after a teller recognized a check David Gavin was trying to cash was stolen.

When investigators showed up, Gavin ran, but he didn’t get far. They caught him and say he was stealing checks from mailboxes in Dasher. He’d already cashed some of them.

Gavin is charged with two counts of forgery and two counts of possession of stolen property.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation, fueled by methamphetamine abuse and identity theft. Protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, and be vigilant with your mail. Never send checks or any sensitive financial documents from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. And always shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers. But remember, most of those documents come in your mailbox, so make sure you protect them at their source too!

7 linked to checks stolen from mailboxes
The Journal Gazette – 6/27/11

(FORT WAYNE, INDIANA) “Seven people have been charged in Allen County with stealing checks from residential mailboxes, altering them and cashing them at local banks for thousands of dollars.

According to court records, those involved in the theft ring received a total of $9,827 by cashing the checks. The scheme, which played out last fall, left seven victims in its wake, court records state.

[…] In one case, a victim reported that a check he wrote to a woman for $611.11 was changed to make it payable to a man he did not know for $1,500. The victim told investigators he put the check in his mailbox on Aug. 30. […]”

COMMENTS: It is never wise to put checks in an unsecured mailbox. Instead, bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. By that same token, it is never wise to receive mail in an unsecured mailbox either. A plethora of personal, sensitive and financial information arrives in your mailbox daily, and thieves prey on residential mailboxes to obtain information for identity theft. Protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox like Mail Boss!

New Castle Police Blotter: Mailboxes Stolen or Knocked
Chappaqua-Mount Kisco Patch 6/27/11

(MOUNT KISCO, NEW YORK) “This past week saw a string of mailbox reports, including thefts on June 24 at 8:59 a.m., on James Road (Mount Kisco P.O.), and on June 24 at 4:54 p.m., on Whitlaw Lane in Chappaqua. Mailboxes were reported knocked down and damaged on June 24, at 9:15 a.m., on Deepwood Hill in Chappaqua, and on June 27, at 8:57 a.m., on Indian Hill Road in Chappaqua.

The reports came just days after a string of similar reports made from June 18-20. […]”

COMMENTS:Thieves target residential mailboxes to obtain personal, sensitive and financial information for identity theft. People receive bank statements, credit card offers, utility bills, courtesy checks and more in their mailbox on a daily basis; and yet, from day to day you never know what you are going to receive. That’s why most mail theft goes unnoticed! To protect yourself, use a high security and durable locking mailbox, and never send checks in the mail. As always, shred sensitive documents before discarding them, to keep thieves from finding your information in the trash; but remember, most of what you shred comes in your mailbox and so you have to protect it there as well!

Postal authorities on trail of thieves
Contra Costa Times – 6/24/11

(CONTRA COSTA, CALIFORNIA) “When a burglary happens, it doesn’t take long for the victim to realize they have been violated. But when mail is stolen from a post office, a mail carrier or out of a Dumpster or mail box, people generally don’t know they’ve been victimized.

[…] Stolen mail, if taken from a mail box, is sometimes found strewn throughout the neighborhood, Claremont police Lt. Mike Ciszek said. There have been times when police come across stolen mail during traffic stops or vehicle inventory searches.

“Sometimes the burglars throw it away,” Putnam said. “We have actually pulled it out of Dumpsters. But a lot of the time they actually keep the mail and we collect it during search warrants.”

Once mail is found by law enforcement or postal inspection officials, there is the task of getting it back to the correct addresses. “Once we find it, we notify everybody that we’ve got it,” Putnam said. “We do try to track them down.”

Police officers have been known to directly deliver lost or stolen mail to the address on the envelopes or packages – if it is in their jurisdiction. They will also contact other law enforcement agencies if the mail made its way to another city.

While most mail thefts are done when no one is looking and when no one is around, some can turn violent. […]

Mail thieves can obtain personal information from credit card statements, bills or checks and use that to open accounts for themselves. Taking it a step further, some criminals use a technique called check washing where they erase the ink off a check and re-write it to themselves or someone they know.

Identity thieves have become clever in their purchases with other people’s names and money, Ciszek said. In some cases, they will take someone’s electricity information and find a place where it can be turned on, garnering free power until the victim figures it out.

Whether it is a secured post office or a isolated mailbox, “crooks will take any opportunity they can,” Ciszek said.

“I have heard reports of people stealing the entire blue box from the curb,” he said. “There is not much you can do if people have their minds set on taking the mail.”

But there are things you can do to keep your mail from making it into the hands of a crook.

Mail should be shredded before it is put in the trash can or recycle bin, Ciszek said, and residents should not allow their mail to pile up in their boxes.

When possible, try to drop your mail off at a post office before pickup times. If not, it will sit unsupervised overnight.

If mail is stolen, officials advise that victims pay close attention to their credit reports and even put a fraud alert on their credit.

“Just start monitoring it,” Putnam said. “Look at credit card statements to make sure there’s no activity you didn’t authorize.”

Customers whose mail was taken from a post office are encouraged to submit a Mail Theft and Vandalism Complaint. “Have reports documenting that they are victims,” Putnam advised.”

COMMENTS: This is a well written article! Identity thieves (most often meth addicts) are savvy in how they obtain peoples’ sensitive information and they frequently do it by stealing mail… from the mailbox, from the trash, from cars, from postal carriers, from collection boxes, etc. There are some good tips here on how to prevent mail theft, but it misses to easiest and most obvious solution! Everyone needs a high-security residential locking mailbox to secure their incoming mail!

In your mailbox, thieves can (and do) find a plethora of sensitive information, and you have no way of knowing if it’s been stolen unless (until) it’s recovered by police executing a search warrant, found strewn on the side of the road, or worse – until you discover you’re a victim of ID theft. Most victims of ID theft do not know how their information was compromised! With a security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, your mail remains safe in a locked mailbox dubbed “Postbox Maximus” by Popular Mechanics, until you retrieve it with your key. Unlike most locking mailboxes, Mail Boss cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. For under $200 at your local hardware store, you can get a high security locked mailbox and have peace of mind knowing that at least your protecting your mail and your privacy from would-be identity thieves.

Metairie woman charged with stealing Hurricane Katrina relief money – 6/24/11

(METAIRIE, LOUISIANA) “A Metairie woman accused of illegally receiving federal relief money after Hurricane Katrina was charged in federal court on Friday. Alicia Victoria Gee, 39, was charged with theft of government money, possession of stolen mail and identity theft, according to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office. […]

She’s also accused of stealing the mail from another residence in the 1300 block of North Sibley Street in order to obtain bank information of another person she later claimed was also her landlord. Letten’s office said Gee used the victim’s stolen information to obtain $1,000 worth of goods. […]”

COMMENTS: While this story is primarily about FEMA fraud, it serves as an important reminder that people need to be vigilant with their mail, too. Many sensitive and financial documents come in the mailbox, and gone are the days when your mail was safe in your curbside mailbox. Savvy criminals target your mail to obtain financial information for identity theft, checks, and more. Protect your privacy: Use a high security locked mailbox to keep thieves’ hands of your mail.

Crime Stoppers: Car Break-Ins, Stolen Parts, Mail Theft: Bend Police, Deschutes Deputies Search For Suspects
KTVZ – 6/23/11

(LA PINE, OREGON) “[…] n La Pine, Deschutes County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating at least 17 cases of mail theft. Most of the homes were in the area of Day Rd. and Falcon Lane.

Officials said crooks could be after credit card applications, checks or envelopes with money in them.

Last year, federal agents and the U.S. postal inspector worked with deputies to capture two suspects in a huge mail theft ring in La Pine that had about 100 victims. Those two suspects were charged and are now serving federal sentences.

COMMENTS:A good locking mailbox goes a long way in keeping your identity safe! Bend Ace Hardware carries Mail Boss, or the Ace Hardware in La Pine can order it through the warehouse for you.

Man Arrested for Stealing Mail, Cashing Checks: In the past few days several residents of the Dasher area of Lowndes County have reported the theft of mail from their mailbox.
WCTV – 6/23/11

(VALDOSTA, GEORGIA) “Margaret Alderman has always worried about someone stealing mail from her mailbox. But when she heard a mailbox prowler was arrested across the street from her neighborhood, she couldn’t believe it.

“Threatened. Threatened because people amaze me cause they are pulling out all the limits to steal from you,” said Alderman.

[…] After a brief chase authorities arrested the suspect. Gavin had several checks on him at that time.

Deputies say Gavin’s a pro and has been stealing checks from mailboxes and cashing them for a while now.

“What we really want to do is alert the citizens to be aware that they need to check their mail and check their accounts.”

Authorities encourage you to put items in the mailbox only on the day of pickup and keep an eye out for prowlers like Gavin. […]”

Deputies believe he’s been running this scheme throughout Florida and Georgia. […]”

They say he could face more charges pending the investigation.”

COMMENTS: Thieves target incoming and outgoing mail to obtain sensitive and financial information for identity fraud and identity theft. 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. In addition, never send checks or other sensitive documents from an unsecured mailbox. It is not adequate to not leave them out overnight. Just don’t do it! If you must use checks, bring them directly to the post office. Otherwise use online bill pay – it’s much more secure. And don’t forget to shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents before discarding them to stop dumpster divers. But remember, most of those documents come in the mail, so a locking mailbox is a must-have!

Police: Scammer made $1,000s stealing mail, information
KENS 5 – 6/23/11

(SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS) “[…] Secret service agents slapped the cuffs Trey Lane McCoy last spring during an identity theft investigation. He has traded his federal jail cell for one in the Bexar County Detention Center on a laundry list of 10 state and local charges of fraud and forgery.

According to four different arrest warrants from the Hill Country Village Police, McCoy was a master at using other people identities and information for his benefit. After McCoy was arrested by secret services last spring, police ran a search warrant at an apartment he had under a fake name. Investigators said they found fake ID’s, fake checks, fake health insurance information and stolen mail from San Antonio and the Hill Country village area.

Investigators said McCoy was bilking thousands of dollars in the fake information scheme. Police said the have surveillance video of McCoy at several local stores and at a bank carrying out fraudulent transactions.

He reportedly confessed to generating the fake documents from stolen mail or from information gathered on the Internet. […]”

COMMENTS: Identity theft is a complex crime, and the perpetrators gather information however they can. Stolen mail is actually one of the leading causes of identity theft. Residents in the US can no longer receive their mail in an unlocked curbside mailbox without worrying about having their mail stolen. To protect yourself from the fastest growing crime in the nation, be careful with your personal sensitive information, and use a high security locking mailbox to secure your mail. Never send checks from an unsecured mailbox – use online bill pay instead. And always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mail) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

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