Mail Identity Theft – 7/6/11-7/12/11

Three sentenced to prison in Tampa Bay fraud, theft ring
Tampa Bay Online – 7/11/11

(TAMPA, FLORIDA) “Three participants in a bank fraud, mail theft and aggravated identity theft ring that operated in the Tampa Bay area from mid-2007 through July 2009 were sentenced Friday to prison time, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

[…] The four stole checks and identity information from various United States Postal Service mailboxes and used the information to create counterfeit checks and identity documents, as well as fraudulent purchase orders and invoices, a U.S. Attorney’s Office release states. Then they tried getting money from banks or businesses in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and seven other counties. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail identity theft is notoriously difficult crime to stop. Most mail theft goes unnoticed and only one third of ID theft victims know how their information was compromised. Usually these criminals are not caught unless they make stupid mistakes or get caught on surveillance, etc. A lot of times the ones stealing the ID information from the mail or elsewhere then turn around and sell that information to others who use it fraudulently, so the network is so complex and twisted it is almost impossible to get these guys off the street. And then when they are caught, the prisons and jails are so full that they typically get only a slap on the wrist for “white collar” crime, because though they do not physically hurt people. Yet they still ruin lives! It’s pretty messed up.

Police Blotter
Naperville Patch – 7/9/11

(NAPERVILLE, ILLINOIS) “[…] Missing mail: A 52-year-old woman in the 2800 block of Blakely Lane reported that between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on May 29 that a piece of outgoing mail with a check inside was stolen from a locked mailbox, police said.”

COMMENTS: Outgoing mail is never secure, not even when sent from a locked mailbox. In order for a locking mailbox to be “USPS Approved” the mail carrier must not have to use a key to open it. Therefore, all outgoing mail is unsecured and vulnerable to thieves. Locking mailboxes are still valuable, however, as they protect your incoming mail – which contains a plethora of sensitive information – from would-be identity thieves. To prevent theft of outgoing mail, bring checks, bill payments or other sensitive mail directly to the post office, or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.

Thieves target the mail
KVUE – 7/8/11

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) “A rash of mail thefts has residents in several Austin neighborhoods on alert.

Steiner Ranch resident Bob Meyer knows all too well about the mailbox break-ins that have taken place in his neighborhood. In the last half year, three gift cards sent to his children never arrived.

“It is $100,” said Meyer. “It is $150. That does not bother me. What bothers me is they are going through my mail, and they are stealing my kids birthday gifts.”

Meyer sent out an email to neighbors to find out if it was happening to anyone else. He was shocked at the number of replies.

“There’s 35 homes on my block, and I probably got 30 email responses back,” said Meyer. “They replied we saw this, and we’re looking for this. My son got cash stolen.”

ThievesWantYourMailNotices like this one now adorn many of the mailbox areas in Steiner Ranch, alerting residents that thieves want their mail and to report theft as soon as possible.

“It is scary and it is sad that we have to go through these measures just to make sure your mail is safe,” said Sid Masuno, a Steiner Ranch resident.

It’s not just happening at Steiner Ranch. Investigators say thieves at the Gables Grandview used a crowbar to gain quick access to several mail slots. Residents got an email telling them a new tamper resistant panel is on the way. However, because the thefts are happening in so many places, the panel is on back order. In the meantime, they’re going to a local post office to get their mail.

“I’ve lived in bad neighborhoods, and I’ve lived in nice neighborhoods,” said Meyer. “I’ve never had a problem losing mail, and now it seems like a routine thing. It is not mail that’s being lost, it’s mail that’s getting stolen.”

COMMENTS: Cluster mailboxes are commonly targeted by thieves because once they violate the locking mechanism (which is quite easy to do with a screwdriver or crowbar) they have access to dozens of residents’ mail. When possible, opt for a residential security locking mailbox. If your only option is a low security cluster mailbox, you may want to invest in a PO box instead.

Police blotter: July 8, 2011 – 7/8/11

(GRASS VALLEY, CALIFORNIA) “Grass Valley Wednesday — 8:19 a.m. — A caller from the 100 block of South Auburn Street reported a woman had moved onto the property and was saying she owned it, and was refusing to leave. She was arrested on suspicion of trespassing and committing mail theft. At 12:19 a.m. Thursday, the same woman was arrested in the 200 block of Mill Street after she entered a private residence and then fled the scene.

[…] Nevada County Wednesday — 8:08 a.m. — A caller from the 15000 block of Monte Vista Drive reported mail theft. […]”

COMMENTS: The Union is a frequent reporter of mail theft, which apparently is quite common in the Grass Valley area. To protect yourself go to B & C True Value and get the Mail Boss locking security mailbox – this patented USPS approved security mailbox will keep your mail safe from would-be identity thieves.

Rosemount Police Blotter: June 28-July 4
Rosemount Patch – 7/7/11

(ROSEMOUNT, MINNESOTA) “June 28: Police investigated a report of mail theft in the 15300 block of Darjeeling Court. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common causes of identity theft. Protect your mail with a high security locked mailbox like the Mail Boss, available near Rosemount at Ace Hardware and Paint in Inver Grove Heights and Apple Valley.

Mail Fraud Reported
Bloomfield-Bloomfield Hills Patch – 7/7/11

(BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICHIGAN) “The Bloomfield Hills Department of Public Safety investigated a claim of mail tampering outside a home on Barbara Lane and turned over its findings to a the U.s. Postal Inspector in Detroit, officials said.

Officers responded to the 100 block of Barbara Lane about 1:40 p.m. June 29 after a resident reported seeing a man run to a mailbox and remove all the contents. The resident said the man was driving a late-model Mercedes and appeared to be headed out of the subdivision when he stopped and took the mail.

The mailbox owner told police officers that only letters addressed to their grandchildren were in there at the time.

No detailed description of the suspect was available. The information was forwarded to the postal inspector, reports said. […]”

COMMENTS: How did the victim know that only letters for their grandchildren were in the mailbox at the time? If the thief took outgoing mail this would make sense but thieves also target incoming mail to obtain information for identity theft. When incoming mail is stolen, most victims do not realize what they are missing as they don’t know what will arrive in the mailbox from day to day. That is why it is important to use a high security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail – simply checking your mail promptly is not adequate, since some thieves are so brazen they will follow the postal carriers! In addition, never send sensitive documents, bill payments or checks from a residential mailbox – they can be easily stolen by thieves for check fraud and identity theft. And as always, shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Hawyard man steals mail from Valley residents to pay bills, open credit cards: Six Danville residents among the victims
Danville Express – 7/7/11

(DANVILLE, CALIFORNIA) “A Hayward man was arrested last week when a search of his home netted several stolen pieces of mail from residents in the San Ramon Valley and parts of Alameda County. Personal information from the mail, as well as several checks, was used to pay bills and open fraudulent credit cards.

The investigation began when a Danville resident reported that several pieces of mail had been stolen from her mailbox, said Sgt. Allan Shields. The resident was collecting checks from people who wanted to attend a charity event.

“When we started looking into the use of the checks and account and routing numbers, started to see that some of the checks were used to pay phone bills and online or phone telephone services,” he said.

By working with the San Ramon postal inspector, Shields and Detective Andrew Burns identified Alan Dennison, 46, as the check-stealing culprit and secured search and arrest warrants.

“While searching his home detectives found checks belonging to other people and evidence of account creation. There was some successful completions and there were also a lot of rejections,” Shields said.

Police found a box of 200 blank checks as well as mail from eight San Ramon residents, six Danville residents and two Alamo residents in addition to mail stolen from people in Hayward, San Jose, Martinez and Lafayette. Shields said police have not been able to contact all the victims.

Dennison was arrested for possession of stolen property and identity theft. Danville police are waiting to hear from the Alameda County district attorney after the Contra Costa County D.A. “decided not to file based on jurisdiction.”

In order to avoid identity theft and stolen mail, Shields recommended using a post office box or locked mailbox and encouraged residents to shred any mail containing personal information.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the easiest and most common ways thieves obtain information for identity theft. Most people do not even realize when their mail has been stolen. It sounds like this thief was quite sloppy, using victims’ account information to pay HIS OWN bills… most ID thieves are more savvy, working in complex networks making them much more difficult to catch. (Some people steal the info and then sell it or trade it for drugs to others, who collect the information and then use it fraudulently or even sell it online, etc.)

To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep incoming mail safe, and never send sensitive documents or checks in the mail. Use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Finally, always shred sensitive documents before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Police Blotter: DUI, Mail Theft, Minor in Possession
Scotts Valley Patch – 7/6/11

(SCOTTS VALLEY, CALIFORNIA) “[…]” On June 29 at 7 a.m. on Tan Oak Drive—An unknown person removed and opened mail from another person’s mailbox and stole a check. […]

On June 29 at 8 a.m. on Navigator Drive—A person reported that an unknown suspect removed mail from his mailbox. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is an epidemic in many parts of California as Identity thieves increasingly target residential mailboxes to steal sensitive and financial information for ID theft. To protect yourself use a high security locked mailbox to secure incoming mail, and never send sensitive mail such as checks or bill payments from an unsecured mailbox – bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. In Scotts Valley, you can find high quality secure locking mailboxes at Scarborough Lumber and Ace Hardware.

Days On Bike Patrol Help Catch Mailbox Thief
Queens Gazette – 7/6/11

(QUEENS, NEW YORK) “Patient and thorough police work, including several days on bicycle patrol, led 108th Precinct Police Officer Ryan Dowling to make an arrest of a perpetrator suspected of stealing from mailboxes. Dowling’s persistence paid off when the perpetrator was caught in the act and arrested. The effort also brought Dowling the Cop of the Month award […].”

COMMENTS: Vigilance is key to stopping mail thieves. But if you do not have alert neighbors and police regularly patrolling your mailbox, you may want to consider getting a high security locking mailbox to prevent thieves from stealing your sensitive mail for identity theft.

Mailbox break-ins prompt fears of identity theft
ABC 30 – 7/6/11

(NORTHWEST FRESNO, CALIFORNIA) “A Fresno neighborhood is concerned about identity theft after thieves broke into several mail boxes over the holiday weekend, potentially exposing personal information belonging to dozens of residents. It happened in a neighborhood near Polk and Shaw, in West Central Fresno.

About 40 homes in the area get their mail from three community mailboxes. Tuesday, those boxes were found wide open. Residents immediately notified the post office and Fresno Police. By mid-afternoon, the mailboxes had been secured. “I told them I was really concerned because some of the boxes are empty. But some of the mail was there,” said resident Colleen Alexander.

With no way of knowing exactly what was taken from inside the boxes, neighbors are now concerned about the possibility of identity theft. It’s something Philip Gentile has already dealt with before. His mail ended up in the wrong hands about ten years ago, when he lived in another nearby neighborhood. “Stuff even showed up months later. Someone opened an account at a move theater and had taken out all kinds of stuff. I had no idea what it was about. Yeah, it’s happened before, so hopefully they didn’t get anything today,” said Gentile.

Neighbors said the same mailboxes vandalized over the holiday weekend were also hit before. Because of that, several residents no longer take any chances. They promptly retrieve their mail as soon as they can or pay bills online. Others take their outgoing mail to the post office. “We take mostly our stuff to the post office. We believe it’s better and it’s faster. I’d rather not have my stuff sitting here,” said Kayla Monsma.”

COMMENTS: Thieves target cluster boxes which typically feature low quality locking mechanisms that are easy to violate because with just a crowbar they can steal dozens of residents mail. Incoming mail is used for identity theft and unless the mailboxes are broken into, victims may not even realize their mail has been stolen!

With mandatory cluster boxes, residents are vulnerable. If you cannot have a high security residential locking mailbox you’re better off opting out of receiving bank statements or financial information via the mail, or getting a PO Box. And don’t send checks or sensitive documents in the mail – use online bill pay, it’s more secure!

Police Blotter July 6
Sammamish Review – 7/6/11

(SAMMAMISH, WASHINGTON) “[…] Mail theft: A resident on the 24000 block of Southeast 10th Court had an envelope containing a check stolen from their mailbox June 23 or June 24.

The resident left the outgoing check in the box after the mail carrier had visited for the day June 23. The next morning they found their mailbox open and the check gone prior to the mail carrier arriving. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft, unfortunately, is a real problem in Sammamish. I remember several years back when police did a meth bust at a motel room and found bags of mail from hundreds of Sammamish residents, none of whom had filed police reports of missing mail. Most people do not realize when their mail has been stolen. It is more difficult to know when your incoming mail has been stolen, as outgoing checks are typically washed and fraudulently cashed within a short time frame. With stolen incoming mail, that information is collected and when possible, used for identity theft.

Given the growing problem, it is important to be vigilant with your mail. Use a high security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail (available at Sammamish Ace Hardware on the plateau) and never send sensitive mail, checks or bill payments from an unsecured mailbox. As always, shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to keep thieves from stealing ID information from the trash (aka dumpster diving).

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