Mail Identity Theft: 7/12/11-7/25/11
Woman steals gift card out of mailbox
KCBD 11 – 7/25/11
(LUBBOCK, TEXAS) “A Lubbock woman admitted last Friday to stealing a gift card from a mailbox. Candace Clark, 27, pleaded guilty in Lubbock federal court and signed a statement that says she and Antony Todd Landers took two greeting cards out of someone’s mailbox back in January.
One of greeting cards included a $100 Visa gift card. Clark remains locked up in the county jail and she’ll be sentenced at a later date to no more than five years in prison.”
COMMENTS: Yes, mail theft is a federal crime punishable by no more than 5 years per count. However it is highly unlikely that this woman will even see the inside of a jail cell. And don’t think this is the only time she stole mail – it’s probably just the only time she was caught! Criminals routinely target your incoming mail to steal cash, checks, gift cards, and sensitive information for identity theft! Protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox.
Police Blotter: Stolen Golf Clubs, Plates and Mail
Town and Country-Manchester Patch – 7/25/11
(MANCHESTER, MISSOURI) “[…] July 16: 300 block of Whitehall Drive
Stealing: A woman told police her mail was stolen from her mailbox. Police said the resident returned home to find her mailbox open and inside was an opened, empty envelope. She also reported three pieces of outgoing mail were missing. […]”
COMMENTS: Mail theft (incoming and outgoing mail) is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your information for ID theft. Protect yourself with a high security mailbox to keep thieves from taking your incoming mail, and never send sensitive outgoing mail from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office, or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.
LFP Police Blotter, July 11 – July 17
Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Patch – 7/23/11
(LAKE FOREST PARK, WASHINGTON) “[…] July 13 POSSIBLE THEFT: At the 1800 block of Forest Park Dr NE a woman suspects that mail was stolen near her mailbox. After discussing the situation with authorities she decided to hold off making a theft report until she spoke with her husband and determined if other mail or items were also missing. The officer advised her that he was working the next day and would come by and take the report if she decided to make a formal theft report. […]”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is a serious problem in the Seattle area – has been for some time. Thieves target your mail to obtain sensitive information for identity theft. Be sure to use a high security mailbox to prevent thieves from stealing your identity. Your locking mailbox should be made of high quality materials, and not be vulnerable to fishing by hand, prying and leveraged entry. Of course thieves can get into any mailbox with enough time – but the key is having one that is secure enough that they will move on to easier targets!
Protect Mail From Theft
The Ledger – 7/23/11
(MULBERRY, FLORIDA) “Over the past three or four months, I have been reading the recent articles regarding the postal thefts, and the several letters in the Voice of the People, with great concern.
The first letter referred to thefts in the Tampa area. A more recent letter, “What’s Next?”, July 9, referred to thefts in the Winter Haven area.
Once that letter was published, the postal inspectors found a person to charge with the Winter Haven thefts. My concern is that they have only touched the tip of the iceberg.
I, too, have had credit cards stolen and a $50 gift card all during the time line of April 21 through June 5. I have reported my losses to the postal inspectors but to date have heard nothing.
I do not live in Winter Haven or Tampa. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume they have a much larger problem that they must quickly address. Both incoming and outgoing mail is in jeopardy.
COMMENTS: Kudos for catching “the” Winter Haven mail thief, but we’re with Rosemary… that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg! Mail theft is a growing problem across the nation, and “statistics” on its impact on ID theft are grossly undervalued! The reason being is that most people do not even realize when their mail has been stolen, and of those who think their mail has gone missing, many more do not report to the appropriate agencies (USPS, FTC and police – if you’re wondering!).
To protect yourself, be vigilant with your mail. Simply retrieving promptly is not adequate as many thieves are so brazen they follow the postal carriers. Use a high security locked mailbox like Mail Boss to protect incoming mail from would-be identity thieves. Do not send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox – bring it directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure! And always shred sensitive mail before discarding them to keep thieves from stealing your ID info from the trash!
Oxnard residents create neighborhood watch program
Ventura County Star – 7/22/11
(OXNARD, CALIFORNIA) “Raymond Bayster and his neighbors have banded together to form a neighborhood watch group after a rash of mailbox and vehicle burglaries in the area.
[…] Over the past month or so, thieves have hit two to three dozen mailboxes, stealing checks, credit cards and anything else of value that they can get, Bayster said. […] Bayster suspects the number of thefts may be higher because some go unreported. Many have occurred in the early morning.
“We need people to report these crimes, if for no other reason than we need to have a clear idea of how extensive the problem is,” he said.
Bayster is encouraging neighbors to call him at 382-3091 to learn about the program and get watch stickers for the front windows of their homes.
“There are thousands of residents who live here,” in the area’s 1,400 or so homes, he said.
Oxnard police Cmdr. Marty Meyer said neighborhood watch programs are effective in combating the type of crime that has plagued Mandalay Shores.
“There is a much higher chance of nabbing a thief who goes to an area like this, because the neighbors are alert,” Meyer said. The more residents who participate in watch programs, the harder it is for criminals, Meyer said. “It’s a simple game of math,” he said.
Bayster also is encouraging people to lock their mailboxes and go to the post office to mail anything of value.”
COMMENTS: Prevention is key. If you lock your house to prevent burglaries, and lock your car to prevent theft, you should also lock your mailbox to prevent identity theft. Don’t get a low-quality locking mailbox. Rather, ensure your choice is made of quality materials and cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver.
People in one Livonia community say someone is stealing their mail
ABC 7 – 7/21/11
(LIVONIA, MICHIGAN) “Birthe Korasiak is fed up over mail she says has gone missing from her Livonia mailbox. “I think someone is going through the mailboxes and looking through where the red flag is up. They’re taking whatever is inside,” says Korasiak.
She lives near Ann Arbor Trail and Wayne Road. She first noticed a problem several months ago when Netflix movies she would put in her mailbox for the mailman to pick up never made it back to the company. At first she thought the movies just got lost in the mail, but Korasiak says it happened twice after that.
She says she realized something was odd when her friend says something similar was happening to her. That friend, who didn’t want to be identified, told Action News “I was noticing I was sending stuff and people were not getting it.”
That woman, who also lives in Livonia, but near Ann Arbor Trail and Newburgh, says says she’s been a victim of such mail theft at least four times. Once she says she she mailed a check at night and put up the red flag on her mailbox. By the morning, she says someone had opened that envelope. She realized that after her neighbor found the check on the ground near the mailbox.
Another time, she says she had mailed two items. The next morning one item, a greeting card, was missing. She suspects it was stolen because it may have looked like it had money inside. The other item, a survey in a business reply envelope, was still there.
Just last week, she says her husband spotted some teenage girls looking into mailboxes and messing around with the red flags. They suspected they were “scouting” the boxes and figured something would be stolen that night. So as a test, they placed a piece of unimportant mail in their mailbox and raised the red flag. By the next morning, that piece of mail was gone..long before the mailman ever showed up.
Now, she and Birthe Korasiak want to make sure their neighbors are aware of what they believe has happened to them. “Now we use the big blue mailboxes to mail things,” says the Livonia resident who didn’t want to be identified.
Both women say they filed police reports and contacted the post office. Action News also called both agencies, but have not heard back from them yet.”
COMMENTS: In the news, theft of outgoing mail is more commonly reported than theft of incoming mail. However, that’s not because it is actually more common, but rather because it’s easier to notice. Residents see the red flag lowered before the postal carrier normally comes, or realize when bill payments go missing when accounts become delinquent. It is much more difficult to know when you’re incoming mail has been stolen. And while you may wonder just what someone might want with your bills, well… it’s not to pay them for you!
Your incoming mail contains a wealth of sensitive information from account numbers and bank courtesy checks to your social security number and more – all of which can be used for identity theft! To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. In addition, never send sensitive documents or checks from an unsecured mailbox – bring them to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure! And of course, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox!) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.
22News I-Team: Mail Theft Gangs
WWLP – 7/20/11
(SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS) “The 22News I-Team investigates one man’s claims someone stole his paycheck out of his mailbox, and then deposited the stolen check in his own personal bank account, without even signing the check.
We’ll ask the bank how this happened in the first place, and what they are doing to keep this from happening again.
We’ll also hear from an expert about the ‘mail theft gangs’ that are stealing mail from mailboxes like this.
Watch this 22News I-Team on Thursday at 6pm on 22News.”
COMMENTS: It’s not just checks that thieves steal from your mailbox. Your mail contains a plethora of sensitive information for identity theft! Most victims of mail theft do not even realize when their mail has been stolen, and then when they are victims of identity theft they do not know how their information was compromised. (In fact, Javelin Strategy indicates the majority of ID theft victims don’t know how their info was stolen, yet of those who do know, the majority indicate low-tech methods: stolen wallets, stolen trash, and stolen mail).
- Mail theft is practically an epidemic in many parts of the country and residents should be vigilant: Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure your incoming mail – Mail Boss is available at your local Ace Hardware
- Never send sensitive documents (checks, bill payments) from your curbside mailbox – bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure!
- Always shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.
Mail thief hits Prairie County: Five Eastern Oregon communities targeted in rash of mail thefts
My Eagle News – 7/19/11
(PRAIRIE COUNTY, OREGON) “A $10,000 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for a rash of mail thefts in Eastern Oregon.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which announced the reward Monday, said the thefts occurred between Friday evening, July 15, and Saturday morning, July 16.
According to Dennis Fernald, postal inspector, someone broke into boxes at several post offices and also stole mail from individuals’ mailboxes on rural routes.
The incidents occurred in Vale, Nyssa, Prairie City, Haines and Jamieson.
The thefts raised the specter of identify theft. Postal patrons whose financial accounts are compromised or who suspect identity theft as a result of a mail theft should report it to authorities and file a mail theft complaint at their local post office. […]”
COMMENTS: Mail theft has been a long time problem in Washington and Oregon. There are probably more locking mailboxes per capita in these two states than anywhere else in the country, but not everyone is protected. First, make sure you have a locking mailbox. But, make sure it’s a quality (high-security) locking mailbox, because thieves can easily violate low-security (or faux-security) “secure” mailboxes.
Can your locking mailbox be fished by hand? Easily pried open with a screwdriver, or the door ripped off by hand? The answer should be no! Here’s a good way to gauge: If your mailbox weighs less than 20 lbs, it is most likely not getting the job done!
Mail thief faces prison
Central Valley Business Times – 7/19/11
(SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA) “Melvin Lee Gregory, 28, of Sacramento, is facing up to four years in federal prison and a half million dollars fine after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft, says U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.
Between March and July last year, Mr. Gregory stole U.S. mail, looking for financial and identification information, according to court testimony.
With the stolen information, he then opened lines of credit and obtained cash and goods from merchants and financial institutions in the Sacramento metropolitan area.
He was arrested after a high speed chase in a stolen car. At that time, the officers discovered that Mr. Gregory possessed over 150 items of stolen U.S. Mail.
Testimony revealed he and his wife stole mail and financial information from over 350 victims.
In February, Mr. Gregory’s wife, Laura Lee Elizabeth Gregory, 28, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty to three counts of bank fraud, and a single count of possession of stolen U.S. Mail. Her sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 30.”
COMMENTS: In this case, the number of victims seems astounding. But what is even more shocking is that most mail thieves are never caught. And I would be that the majority of “victims” in this case did not even realize their mail had been stolen until Mr. Gregory was caught “red handed” … just goes to show you how very easy it is for these criminals to prowl the streets and steal your mail. Protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep would-be identity thieves from stealing your personal sensitive information.
Crime Tracker: Mail Theft Drops in Yakima County
KIMA 29 – 7/17/11
(YAKIMA, WASHINGTON) “The KIMA Crime Tracker spotted a huge drop in mail theft cases.
Action News pulled the numbers and learned the Yakima County Sheriff’s office investigated 22 cases of mail theft in 2010.
That’s compared to 73 cases in 2009.
The post office says one of the reasons mail theft may be down is because more people are getting locked mailboxes.
Identity theft experts recommend you also have a locked mail box to avoid someone using your personal information to rip you off.”
COMMENTS: YES! Locking mailboxes greatly reduce mail theft, as they seriously deter thieves from stealing your sensitive information from the mail. Unless everyone has a locking mailbox, then they’ll target the ‘low quality’ locking mailboxes that can be easily pried open with a screwdriver or even fished by hand. If you don’t yet have a locking mailbox and you’re concerned about mail theft, make sure you get one that is high security, like Mail Boss!
Postal authorities on high alert after mailbox thefts
LA Times – 7/14/11
(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA) “A recent spate of mailbox thefts has put postal authorities on high alert and raised concern that customers may be vulnerable to identity theft.
But authorities said it was unclear whether the brazen heists were part of a growing trend.
“The economy the way it is, there is an increase in crime all around,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Renee Focht of the Postal Service’s Los Angeles division, which has jurisdiction over Southern California. “We can’t speculate why the mailboxes are being targeted.”
Focht said less than a dozen mailboxes had been stolen in Southern California since the beginning of June.
As well as being swiped from in front of post offices, the blue collection boxes, which weigh around 200 pounds, had been uprooted from residential neighborhoods and business parks, Focht said.
“It does take some effort,” said Focht. “They’re bolted into the concrete.”
Four mailboxes were taken in less than a week at several San Fernando Valley post offices, including ones in Pacoima, Glendale and Burbank.
Local law enforcement agencies would not comment on mailbox thefts because postal-related crimes are investigated by federal authorities.
Focht said authorities had not yet determined whether any of the thefts were linked.
The postal official acknowledged that the stolen mail could be used for identity theft, but acknowledged that in reality only 4% of all identity theft cases are attributed to a mail theft.
Focht advised postal customers to deposit their mail before the last collection time in order to ensure items are not left in mailboxes overnight, when thefts might be more prone to occur.
In published tips to help citizens avoid being victims of identity theft, the Los Angeles Police Department advises residents to have new checkbooks sent to a post office box or arrange to pick them up at their bank.
Authorities also advise residents to pay bills with an electronic bill payment service. And envelopes containing payments should also be mailed inside a post office, rather than at a neighborhood mailbox. […]”
COMMENTS: The postal service says only 4% of identity theft is related to “stolen mail” but that is a not congruent with other (unbiased) research, which indicates the majority of known identity theft is via low-tech methods: stolen wallets, stolen mail, and stolen trash! And in fact, the majority of people do not even realize how their identity was compromised.
Mail theft is actually one of the easiest and increasingly common methods criminals use to obtain your information for identity theft. Most people do not even realize when their mail has been stolen, as they do not know from day to day what will come in the mail. Savvy thieves will take sensitive documents but leave the junk mail, so their victims’ suspicions are not arisen.
To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail, or get a PO box. If blue collection mailboxes are being target, bring bill payments directly to the post office, or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure. And always shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.
Elaborate I.D. Theft Plot Busted
FOX 23 – 7/14/11
(TULSA, OKLAHOMA) “Stolen mail, stolen cars, identity theft is in the hundreds and the ring leaders are busted in Tulsa.
Two women are in the Tulsa County Jail accused in the complicated scheme FOX23 News has been warning you about since April.
The women are accused of stealing mail in Tulsa, Creek and Pittsburg Counties and there could be more victims.
Police say this is an investigation spanning several months. Tulsa Police working with the U.S. Postal Inspector arrested Cindy Kosechata, 47, and Jennifer Jameson, 37. In April police arrested three suspects that victimized 280 people. In the most recent arrest police believe there are at least 50 victims.
Industrial businesses in South Tulsa between Memorial and Sheridan have locked-mailboxes on the curb and also mailboxes that you see in neighborhoods. Pry marks are still left on some business mailboxes where the thieves broke in and stole all of the mail including checks businesses were sending or waiting to cash in.
Checks that were written for $2,515.53 and $1,327.63 that never made it to where they were supposed to go.
“One of the vendors asked where their payment was,” says Clark Robinson of Robinson Glass.
His business neighbor says he had his mailbox pried open twice.
“We need those checks going into our checking account. We cash them the day we get them and this has created a big problem for us,” says Bryan Craig of Sigma Sales Inc.
The owner says they had $10,000 stolen.
“I can’t imagine someone doing this anyway because it’s such a traceable crime, but it’s a foolish crime,” says Craig.
However, two women are accused of getting away with it for a while but are now sitting in jail because of the fraud.
They had an elaborate plan to wash and alter the stolen checks.
“These are the erasers and the white out, the different pens and magnifying glass,” says Tulsa Police Fraud Detective Cheryl Compton.
Colored pencils were also found that were used to shade in the eraser marks.
“We don’t know which one is the good one, which one is the bad one because they don’t look the same,” says Compton.
When you look closely at some of the checks it’s obvious they are fakes.
There were two checks from different businesses but had the same phone number.
The number dialed back to what appeared to be a personal cell phone number. The person did not return FOX23’s call.
There’s not a total dollar figure but these suspected frauds made out big.
“We haven’t put pen to paper to even to think about it because you are talking $500 to $800 a whack,” says Compton.
Detectives even found washed birth certificates, vehicle titles and a stack of stolen license plates taken from cars similar to vehicles they stole.
“If a police officer stopped them, the tag would check to be a good tag, to a vehicle that we are looking at,” says Compton.
She says Kosechata and Jameson even showed up for court on separate charges in a stolen car.
One thing is for certain these businesses are keeping a closer eye on their mail.
“We are all told that the U.S. mail is sacred, no one is supposed to mess with your mail and you can’t leave it in your box to send out or wait for it when you get back, it’s real frustrating,” says Robinson.
The owner of Robinson Glass now has a mail slot in its door for the mailman to drop mail on days it’s closed. Sigma Sales Inc. says that it has asked the U.S. Post Office to stop service on days it’s closed.
Police recommend that you pay bills online or over the phone. They recommend that you don’t send outgoing mail from your mailbox with the red-flag up. This includes all mail including cards.
Don’t throw away junk mail without shredding it. Police say thieves look for pre-approved credit cards and sweepstakes or anything with your personal information, name, address and phone number.
Police are still looking to track down the victims. If you believe you’ve been ripped off by these frauds police want you to file a report online www.tulsapolice.org
Jail records show Kosechata is being held on $900,850 and Jameson is being held on $802,000 bond.”
COMMENTS:Most identity theft rings are highly complex, with different levels and roles. There are the grabbers who steal the information… from your mailbox, or wherever they can find it. They can sell the documents or trade them for drugs. Then higher up people gather information that they can share online or use fraudulently. Sometimes they wash checks and have yet other people cash them for a fee. Regardless, kudos to the police department for nabbing a couple ringleaders. There are steal people out there going after your information.
The best defense to protect yourself is three-fold.
- Use a HIGH SECURITY locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep incoming mail safe. MOST locking mailboxes (like the ones in this story) can be easily pried open with a screwdriver in just seconds. Get one that can withstand sustained prying and leveraged entry. Also, make sure you cannot fish it by hand – the Oasis Jr model by Architectural Mailboxes (available in big-box stores) can be easily fished by hand.
- Use caution with bill payments, checks or sensitive outgoing mail. Do not send them from a residential or business mailbox as outgoing mail is not secure. Bring these directly to the post office, or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.
- Shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents (most of which come in the mail) before discarding them. This will keep thieves from stealing your personal information from the trash (aka dumpster diving).
Mail opened, check stolen from mailboxes
Sun Journal – 7/13/11
(WILTON, MAINE) “Police say a check was taken from mail left overnight in a Wilton resident’s mailbox.
Other mail was opened and left but the check was taken, Wilton officer Billie Martin said. The resident reported the loss Tuesday morning.
This is the second recent and random incident of mail being opened and left, she said. The incidents occurred at different sites in town, one on Main Street and another on Village View.
As it is a federal offense to tamper with mail, the department is contacting the FBI, she said.
She advises residents to be sure to bring mail in before night.”
COMMENTS: Residents need to refrain from sending sensitive mail from unsecured mailboxes, as thieves target outgoing mail for check fraud. By that same token, residents should use a security mailbox for receiving incoming mail, which thieves steal to obtain sensitive information for identity theft. Most people do not realize when their mail has been stolen, so they do not consider the risk of receiving mail in an unlocked mailbox. However, remember most of what you shred or burn originates in your mailbox, and it’s much easier for criminals to take this info from your curbside mailbox than from the trash.
The Country Club Vista Neighborhood Council – 7/12/11
(VISTA, CALIFORNIA) “Folks, we have some mail thieves patrolling our neighborhood. From the Hawk Ridge Neighborhood Watch:
On Monday 7/11/11 around 1 to 1:30 am, some individuals were checking our mail boxes by Hawk Ridge Dr. They were driving a light brown SUV Nissan 90′s. We were unable to get their license plate number. Please be on the look out.
If you spot them, call Richmond PD immediately (510) 233-1214 ext 0 and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the word out!”
COMMENT: Vigilant residents are instrumental in catching mail thieves. Most victims don’t realize when their mail has been stolen, so keeping a close eye on neighborhood activities is a must. Also, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, and never send sensitive mail like checks from an unsecured mailbox. Use online bill pay instead – it’s more secure.
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