Mail Identity Theft – 7/27/11-8/4/11

10 Twin Cities residents indicted for stealing mail, identities
KARE 11 – 8/4/11

(MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA) “Ten Twin Cities residents were federally indicted Wednesday, charged with stealing mail and using the identities of victims to create bank accounts and obtain cash.

The indictment charges Ricky W. Mariano, age 40, of Oakdale; Sarrah M. Vail, age 40; James Edward Freeman, age 19; and Vincent Robert Vail, age 18, all of White Bear Lake; James N. Hahne, age 35, and Clifton G. Evans, Jr., age 33, both of St. Paul; Benjamin J. Dolan, age 35, and Anne Marie Vail, age 46, both of Vadnais Heights; Jamie Marie Sylvester, age 34, of North St. Paul; and Jacob Charles Dutton, age 28, of Minneapolis, with one count of theft and receipt of stolen mail and one count of bank fraud conspiracy.

Prosecutors say from July of 2010 through July of 2011, the defendants stole mail from curbside mailboxes across Dakota, Ramsey, and Washington counties. The alleged purpose of their actions was to obtain and use personal information from the victims in order to acquire funds from their bank accounts. Personal information included names, birth dates, and bank account numbers, among other things.

To access the bank accounts of their victims, investigators say the defendants used a process known as “check washing,” through which a chemical is used to erase certain details from checks while retaining other information, such as bank account numbers and routing numbers. In this case, the “washed” checks were then rewritten at various retail stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The indictment also alleges Mariano, Hahne, Dolan, and Dutton destroyed letter boxes known as blue collection boxes in order to obtain mail.

If convicted, the defendants face a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and five years on the mail theft charge. In addition, the potential maximum penalty on each count of bank fraud is 30 years, and the potential maximum penalty on each count of destruction of letter boxes is three years.”

COMMENTS: Stolen mail (along with stolen wallets and stolen trash) is a leading cause of identity theft. Your incoming and outgoing mail contains a plethora of sensitive personal and financial information – bank account statements, credit card offers, social security checks, and more – that thieves use for identity fraud and identity theft. To protect yourself, use a high security locked mailbox like Mail Boss to secure incoming mail. In addition, 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 your mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers. In the Twin Cities, you can find Mail Boss at Mills Fleet Farm and Ace Hardware.

Mailbox Contents Stolen in Woodward Township – 8/4/11

(WOODWARD TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA) “Mailbox Contents Stolen in Woodward Township – PSP Montoursville report a theft involving a mailbox last month. Trooper Troy Hendershot said a red ATV with blue and green painted tired pulled up to the mailbox belonging to Merrit Robinson, 73, of Yerger Road, Linden on July 23 around 1 p.m. the driver was wearing a fully enclosed white helmet; the passenger was a white female with black hair. Hendershot said. The female opened Robinson’s mailbox and pulled out what appeared to be mail that was delivered earlier in the day, then the two fled west on Yerger Road. Anyone with information is asked to contact 570.368.5700. […]”

COMMENTS: Stolen mail may not seem like a serious crime, but in reality it is a leading cause of identity theft. In your mailbox, thieves can find a wealth of personal sensitive and financial information for identity theft. Protect your bank statements, credit card offers, social security statements and the like with a high security locking mailbox. In the world today, you just can’t leave your mail unprotected in a curbside mailbox for any passerby to steal.

Stolen checks could happen to anyone
WTNH 8 – 8/3/11

(BRANFORD, CONNECTICUT) “A woman faces charges concerning a check washing and cashing scheme that hit a couple businesses in Branford.

Detectives say this story of checks being stolen from some local businesses can really serve as a warning to protect what is delivered to your mailbox.

You may think what is in your mailbox is private, safe, but recently two Branford businesses had payment checks issued by the town of North Branford stolen. They were the Sherwin Williams Painting company and A&M Guardrail.

Detectives say Vanessa Diverniero, 25, ripped off checks issued by the town of North Branford. She then “washed the checks” using a chemical to remove the ink, allowing her write the checks out to herself.

While this is a sophisticated scheme targeting commercial businesses, police are hearing more and more cases of residential mailboxes being searched.

Thieves look for birthday or any kind of cards that might contain cash or gift cards.

The two companies that were ripped off were issued replacement checks.”

COMMENTS: Thieves target not only outgoing but also incoming mail to obtain account numbers and other personal sensitive and financial information for identity theft and fraud. To protect yourself and/or your business, (1) use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail. You get your mail with your own key and the postal carrier deposits through a small slot. Ask for Mail Boss by name at your local Ace Hardware. (2) Never send sensitive mail, checks or bill payments from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. (3) Always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox!) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Two Men Arrested for Fresno Mail Thefts
KSEE News – 8/3/11

fresnomailthieves(FRESNO, CALIFORNIA) “The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has announced the arrests of two Fresno men in connection with several mail thefts in the Fresno area. 27-year-old Ger Yang, and his nephew, 18-year-old Seng Sor Yang, were arrested following an investigation into a stolen unemployment check.

The investigation began late last month when the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a mail theft at a home near Copper and Sunnyside Avenues. One of the items stolen at that time was an unemployment check which was cashed at the unemployment office. Detectives were able to tie the cashed check to Seng Yang.

The investigation then led to a search at the home of Ger Yang, who was on felony parole. During the search, detectives discovered several items of mail allegedly stolen from over 20 different victims.

Detectives learned that both Yang men were stealing the mail looking for checks. They would then cash the checks to support their methamphetamine habit.

As a result of the investigation, Seng Yang was arrested for check fraud and theft. Ger Yang was arrested for forgery, theft, possession of stolen property, and parole violations. Both were booked into the Fresno County Jail.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact Detective Mike Nulick at 292-1104, or the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at 488-3111.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways criminals obtain your sensitive information for identity theft. It is low risk – most mail identity thieves are not caught. When they are, they receive little more than a slap on the wrist for the non violent “white collar” crime. Unfortunately for the victims, identity theft can be a nightmare to reconcile. Prevention is key! Use a high security locking mailbox to protect your personal sensitive financial information from would-be identity thieves!

Possible stolen mail in northwest Bakersfield
KGET 17 – 8/1/11

(BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA) “Since Wednesday, dozens of homeowners have traveled to the nearby post office to pick up their mail. The US Postal Service is still in the process of replacing the damaged mail boxes.

A postal manager hopes to have those boxes repaired soon. In the meantime, residents say the vandalism has made getting their mail, a real pain.

A door hanging from hinges, and signs remind homeowners of vandals. Vandals who broke into a community cluster of mailboxes, one on Windora Lane, another one on Broad Acres Avenue in northwest Bakersfield. “It’s scary it’s your privacy, it’s scary to think that uh your mail might be vandalized, and what they may have gotten you know . Did they get any credit card applications, did they get any check information, anything with your personal data,” says Lorna Williams.

Since last Wednesday, Willilams has been driving to the Pegasus station to get her mail. It’s gas money and extra time that’s become a major inconvenience. “We were expecting a bill, the only bill you can’t pay on line, and we haven’t gotten that.”

It could not have happened at a worst time. Many residents are retired and on fixed incomes. Residents say Wednesday is social security check day. “Most people get direct deposit. But there are a few that want that check in their hand and I don’t know if that’s what prompted them to go around or what they’re looking for or what but I suppose identity theft is big thing too,” says Jerry Delaney. He lives next to one of the boxes. “It’s a hard time, and desperate people do desperate things.”

“Really we want to know when is it going to be repaired, so life can be back to normal,” asks Williams?

Destroyed mail boxes or tampering with mail is a federal crime. There is good news regarding the vandalism. A postal manager from the Pegasus station tells us maintenance will replace those boxes. They plan to do those repairs Tuesday.

Mail service should be restored by Wednesday.”

COMMENTS: This headline and story is way off base. “Vandalism” is willful destruction or defacement of someone’s property. This is about breaking into mailboxes to steal checks, sensitive documents and anything useful for identity fraud and identity theft.

As postal carriers confirm, cluster boxes are frequently targeted, because they are relatively easy to break into, and they hold mail for many residents all in one location. They are low-security and if you have the choice you should opt for a residential locking security mailbox. Some residential locking mailboxes are equally low in quality, but nevertheless are less frequently targeted. And then others are really high quality, like Mail Boss (as well as Armadillo and Fort Knox). Thieves would have to spend a substantial amount of time to violate the locking mechanism, and will move on to easier targets.

Nixa pair among eight charged in counterfeiting scheme
Christian County Headliner News – 8/31/11

(NIXA, MISSOURI) “Two Nixa residents are among eight Ozarkers facing nearly 60 charges for their roles in a conspiracy to create and cash more than $134,000 in counterfeit checks in a three-state area, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The scheme allegedly involved stealing mail from businesses in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma in order to create counterfeit business checks, then using stolen identities to cash the counterfeit checks.

[…] The federal indictment alleges each of the eight defendants participated in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, create and cash counterfeit checks and steal mail from July 1 to Oct. 25, 2010.

According to the indictment, Strait-Destefano and Haggard led the conspiracy to create counterfeit checks using original checks and other material that the group stole from private mailboxes in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Haggard allegedly recruited individuals, including Dietrich Haggard and Eidson, to steal mail from private mailboxes.

Dietrich Haggard and Eidson, along with others associated with the scheme, primarily stole mail from business locations, the indictment says, looking for mail which contained original checks so that the original checks could be counterfeited. They allegedly provided those checks to Derrick Haggard and Strait-Destefano, who created the counterfeit checks.

[…] During the time of the conspiracy, the group was successfully able to pass $61,335 in counterfeit checks at financial institutions in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The group unsuccessfully attempted to pass an additional $73,111 in counterfeit checks. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways criminals target victims to steal sensitive information. Residents and businesses alike need to be vigilant with their mail. Use a high security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail from would-be identity thieves. Do not send checks from unsecured mailboxes!

Monrovia’s Own Crime-Fighting Dog!
Monrovia Patch – 8/1/11

(MOROVIA, CALIFORNIA) “[…] Mail thief: On July 22 at 9:17 a.m., an officer was patrolling the 800 block of West Walnut due to recent complaints of drug activity. He observed two subjects walking down the street carrying a duffel bag. When he stopped and talked with the subjects, he learned one of them was on parole for burglary. A search of the duffel bag revealed stolen mail from several residences off Royal Oaks. The suspect was arrested for possession of stolen mail and a parole violation. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is commonplace in Royal Oaks, and actually in many parts of the country. Thieves target mailboxes to steal sensitive information for identity theft and other valuable items including cash, gift cards, DVDs and more. Bank account statements and credit card offers can be used fraudulently too, and do significant damage to your credit. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox. It is not enough to check mail promptly, as some thieves are so brazen they follow the postal carriers. In addition, never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Bring checks directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.

East Side residents: Be on the lookout for mail thieves
The News Tribune -7/29/11

(TACOMA, WASHINGTON) “Thieves have been targeting mail boxes on Tacoma’s East Side.

The Tacoma Police Department reports an increase in mail theft in neighborhoods south of 56th Street, according to an email from community liaison officer Don Hensley to Safe Streets.

Several residents have found pieces of discarded mail on the street. The mail is from nearby neighborhoods, Hensley wrote. […]

Hensley asks residents to be aware of anyone suspicious in their neighborhood.

“Note the description and license plate of any associated vehicles,” the officer wrote.

Residents are asked to call 911 if a crime is being committed or 253-798-4721 to report suspicious activity.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft can be easily prevented! Use a high security locking mailbox available at your local Ace Hardware to secure incoming mail. This keeps thieves from stealing sensitive financial information for identity theft. And, never send sensitive mail, bill payments or checks from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them to the blue PO boxes or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.

Residents report string of Corral de Tierra Road mail thefts
The Salinas Californian – 7/29/11

(SALINAS, CALIFORNIA) “Corral de Tierra Road resident Madeline Daniels reports at least 17 households in the area had their mail stolen June 29.

Daniels said she reported the theft of her own mail to the U.S. Postal Service, which has asked residents to be on the lookout for any vehicles going along the road stopping at every mailbox. Anyone who sees such a vehicle is asked to get the license number and call the authorities, including the Postal Service. Daniels said the thieves got a brand-new cellphone she had ordered. When she called AT&T to check on whether it should have been delivered, the company told her it had already been activated and someone was using it. Daniels said it was fortunate she called right away to inquire or she would have been on the hook for the bill. She also lost her Netflix delivery and some bills, she said.

Since the theft, she has purchased a locking mailbox at the recommendation of the Postal Service.

“[The Postal Service] said the likelihood of [thefts] happening again is very high,” Daniels said.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft has been a long time problem in California, and in many areas across the country. Neighbors should be vigilant and report suspicious activity to police. However, keep in mind that mail thieves can hit any time – under the cover of darkness or in broad daylight. Some thieves are so brazen they follow the postal carriers to steal mail! The best protection is a high quality locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. In addition, do not send sensitive documents from an unsecured mailbox. Bring checks or bill payments to the post office or use online bill pay instead.

Wednesday Log (7-27): Mail Theft on South Wildwood
Hercules Patch – 7/27/11

(HERCULES, CALIFORNIA) “0814 hours: Mail Theft – A resident in the 200 block of South Wildwood reported yesterday morning she placed three outgoing bills in her mailbox. At 1300 hours, she noticed her mailbox was open and the outgoing mail was missing. She contacted the Post Office and was told her outgoing mail had not been picked up yet. She later received a call from a bank in San Jose informing her someone attempted to cash one of her stolen checks. […]”

COMMENTS: Don’t leave checks, bill payments or other sensitive mail in an unsecured mailbox. The red flag is a plain indication to thieves that there is important mail in your mailbox. Bring these directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. By that same token, be vigilant with your incoming mail, which contains a plethora of sensitive information for would-be identity thieves. Use a high security locking mailbox to protect yourself from the fastest growing crime in the nation.

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