Mail Identity Theft- 9/30/11-10/8/11

Man, woman each charged with 38 counts of identity theft
The Bellingham Herald – 10/8/11

(BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON) “A man and woman accused of stealing mail from homes in south Bellingham are being charged with 79 counts of possession of stolen property and 38 counts of identity theft.

[…] Both Hanson and Ashbach-Martinez were arrested on suspicion of 10 counts of second-degree possession of stolen property, 69 counts of third-degree possession of stolen property, 38 counts of identity theft and nine counts of unlawful possession of payment instruments.

[…] When police searched her home in the 4000 block of Northwest Avenue, they found bags of mail, stolen electronics and other apparently stolen items, police said. Some pieces of mail contained credit card account numbers and social security numbers, James said.

Stolen items will be returned to their owners, said Lt. Rick Sucee, but that may take some time.

People who think their mail may have been stolen should keep a close eye on their bank statements, Sucee said. If they notice missing mail, they should call 911.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways criminals obtain your sensitive information for identity theft, and obviously it’s not very difficult for anyone to do! To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, available in Bellingham at Hardware Sales or your local Ace Hardware. Also, never send sensitive mail from an unlocked mailbox – use a secure USPS box or online bill pay, it’s more secure!

Identity Theft, Fraud on Rise, Say Police: Recent mail theft incident at Turtle Creek subdivision underscores growing problem
Petaluma Patch – 10/7/11

(PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA) “Petaluma police say fraud incidents are on the rise and are urging residents to not leave mail out and for merchants to check identification before accepting debit or credit cards.

The recent mail thefts in the Turtle Creek subdivision off Sonoma Mountain Parkway underscore what police describe as a growing problem. They say identity thieves steal mail and use people’s identity to obtain checks, apply for new credit cards and and make online purchases.

“It’s a hit or miss kind of thing for them,” says Paul Gilman, a Petaluma police officer who investigates fraud cases. “They’re just looking for any personal information they can use.”

Police said they did not have the resources to provide Patch with data on fraud due to recent cuts in the records division, but admitted that fraud, embezzlement and grand theft were “more common in the past year.”

[…] Evans recommends that residents take all mail to the post office and check their credit card and bank statements closely.

“When people leave their outgoing mail in the mailbox with the flag up, they are opening themselves up to be victims of a crime,” Evans said. “It only takes a minute to take your mail to the post office.”

In the Turtle Creek incident, neighbors reported seeing two men reaching into mailboxes earlier this week. […]”

COMMENTS: These articles always urge residents to be vigilant with outgoing mail, but what about incoming mail? Getting it quickly is not the solution because some thieves will even follow the postal carriers! Use a locking mailbox to prevent mail-identity theft, and don’t send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox.

SOUTH ST. PAUL: Mail thief gets year in jail for ID theft
Pioneer Press – 10/6/11

(SOUTH ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA) “A woman will serve a year in jail for identity theft after stealing mail in South St. Paul. […]

Witnesses told police they saw a woman stealing from mailboxes May 25 in South St. Paul, according to a criminal complaint. Police traced the car to Hobbs and arrested her.

In the car, police found “numerous torn-up checks” and two wallets with other women’s driver’s licenses in Hobbs’ purse, the complaint said. In her hotel room, police confiscated check-writing paper, more driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, checkbooks and other documents. In total, police found identifying information for about 15 people.”

COMMENTS: At least Hobbs is finally off the streets of St. Paul, for a while any way! Mail theft is one of the more common ways thieves are stealing information for ID theft, so prevention is key. Use a high security locking mailbox (available at Frattallone’s Ace Hardware in St. Paul) to secure incoming mail, and 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!

Twin Cities Police Report: Sept. 28-Oct. 4
Larkspur-Corte Madera Patch – 10/6/11

(LARKSPUR, CALIFORNIA) “[…] A call was received from the San Francisco Police Department reporting they had several subjects in custody who are in possession of mail with Corte Madera addresses. TCPD Units made contact with eight different victims in our jurisdiction. Reports were taken and SFPD was advised. […]

A resident of the 300 block of Via La Cumbre reported the theft of mail from their mailbox. They advised they observed the passenger of a Black Subaru station wagon with a black stripe on the tailgate take the mail from the mailbox. The incident was documented. […]”

COMMENTS: Use the Mail Boss locking mailbox to prevent theft of incoming mail. In the Larkspur area, find the Mail Boss at Goodman Building Supply, Grandlake Ace Hardware, or Orinda True Value.

Shoreline Police Blotter
Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Patch – 10/5/11

(SHORELINE, WASHINGTON) “[…] STOLEN MAIL: Stolen mail was found thrown in bushes on N.W. 191st St. Checks that were also stolen were not found. […]”

COMMENTS: It is amazing that people still receive checks in the mail and yet do not lock their mailbox. Would you leave your checks just sitting on the dash of your unlocked car? How about on your front steps? Use a secure mailbox to prevent mail identity theft!

Elk Crimelog
Gloucester County Times – 10/5/11

(ELK, NEW JERSEY) “Three personal checks with a total value of $154 were stolen Sept. 12 from a mailbox at a residence in the 600 block of Elk Road.

[…] Mail, including a letter with a personal check for $1,004, was stolen Sept. 12 from a township residence. […]”

COMMENTS: Within thirty minutes of Elk, you can find the Mail Boss at Grove True Value or Ace of Gloucester Township.

Pair arrested in connection with rash of Bellingham mail thefts
Bellingham Herald – 10/5/11

(BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON) “Bellingham Police arrested a man and woman they suspect are behind a string of recent mail thefts, after finding bags of mail […] in the woman’s home Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Police have received more than a dozen complaints of stolen mail since the beginning of August, with the majority of those thefts occurring in south Bellingham, according to the Bellingham Police Department.

Witnesses in those cases described the thieves as a man and woman driving a red pickup truck with a flashing orange light on the top. The pair likely was looking for checks and credit cards. In many cases, the pair would buy expensive items with the new credit cards, then return the items the next day for cash, according to police.

Police think there could be many victims who don’t know that their mail was stolen because credit card companies don’t give advance warning when they send new cards to cardholders.

[…] The woman, Tara Jean Ashbach-Martinez, 37, gave police a false name and identification, but investigators were able to figure out her identity and where she lived. When they got to her home in the 4000 block of Northwest Avenue, they found bags of mail, electronics and other items that may have been stolen in burglaries. […]

Anyone who thinks their mail may have been stolen should keep a close eye on their bank statements, Lt. Rick Sucee said. If they see unusual activity or notice missing mail, they should call 911. Police will return mail found at Ashbach-Martinez’s home to its original owners, but that process may take some time.

COMMENTS: Some consumer information: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain sensitive information for identity theft, along with other low-tech methods including stolen wallets/purses, and stolen trash (dumpster diving). Cyber ‘high tech’ methods of ID theft are, by comparison, the minority.

To protect yourself, use vigilance with physical documents containing your personal information. Get a PO Box or a high security locking mailbox (one that cannot be easily fished or pried open) to secure incoming mail. Never send sensitive mail (checks or bill payments) from an unsecured mailbox. Checks can be easily washed and forged, and bill payment account info used online and fraudulently otherwise. Bring these directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. As always, shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox!) before throwing them out to keep dumpster divers from stealing your information from the trash.

Just remember, mail theft is easy – it only takes a second, and most people don’t even realize when their mail has been stolen. If you suspect you may be a victim, immediately issue a credit alert with one of the three main bureaus (it’s free to do this) to monitor for suspicious activity.

Identity Theft Suspect Nabbed At Home Depot: Colorado Springs Police Arrest Johnny Gilliland, 29
KRDO NewsChannel 13 – 10/5/11

(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO) “Colorado Springs police said Wednesday that they hope the arrest of a man on suspicion of identity theft will lead to more arrests and a decrease in the crime locally.

“(Suspects) end up getting to know each other and working together to commit a lot of these crimes,” said police Sgt. Darrin Abbink. “It tends to be a very team concept-type of crime, so they know other players in the game.”

Police said they arrested Johnny Gilliland, 29, on Monday […]. Police said Gilliland is a convicted felon who used fake ID to obtain a store credit card and charge $5,600 in merchandise during the past two weeks. It’s unclear why the fake ID wasn’t noticed earlier.

When officers searched Gilliland’s vehicle, they said they found stolen mail, numerous ID cards, other items consistent with identity theft and personal information from at least 15 people.

It’s hard to tell if these people knew their identities had been stolen or if they just had some of their property stolen and their ID hasn’t been compromised,” said Abbink. “We have to dig into this one more.”

Abbink said personal information can be stolen during burglaries and either misused or sold to others. It’s unclear exactly how the apparent identity thefts happened, he said, but a certain victim often is targeted.

“People who haven’t checked their credit rating recently, haven’t received their bills to show their credit cards have been compromised,” said Abbink. “(Identity thieves will) pass that information around, use it very quickly and dispose of it.”

[…] Inside Gilliland’s vehicle, police said they also found illegal crystal meth, meth paraphernalia and a stolen handgun.”

COMMENTS: Crystal meth was found along with stolen mail and identity information? What a shocker! But seriously, it’s disingenuous to suggest this information was stolen from burglaries. Yes, personal information can be stolen during burglaries, but most of the time they just steal the information right out of your unlocked mailbox. It’s much easier, it’s a low-risk crime (vs. breaking and entering) and it goes unnoticed! The solution to identity theft prevention starts with a locking security mailbox. If you don’t have one, you’re going to be a target eventually.

Reno man indicted for allegedly possessing stolen mail
Reno Gazette-Journal – 10/5/11

(RENO, NEVADA) “A 36-year-old Reno man has been indicted on a federal charge in Reno accusing him of possessing stolen mail.
reno_mail_thiefJoshua F. Dewig on Tuesday was indicted by a federal grand jury in Reno of one count of possession of stolen mail. He is accused of possessing about 65 articles of U.S. mail on July 8.

Dewig was booked and released. […]”

COMMENTS: Reno has a big problem with mail theft. Residents and businesses need to use locking security mailboxes to protect themselves. Mail Boss is available in Reno at North Valleys Hardware or by special order at Carter Brothers Ace Hardware.

Woman Accused of Stealing Mail Sentenced for Identity Theft
KSTP 5 – 10/4/11

(ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA) “A St. Paul woman accused of stealing mail out of mail boxes in Dakota County was sentenced Tuesday to one year in jail and 20 years of probation.

Polly Hobbs, 32, pleaded guilty in July to one count of identity theft. She was accused of stealing mail, then taking identities. Police say she had victims’ checks, social security numbers and even car titles.

Instead of serving her time at the Dakota County Jail, she will enter a long term chemical dependency program.”

COMMENTS: So instead of serving jail time, she goes to rehab? Indeed, most mail thieves are drug addicts. They are stealing mail for identity theft and this funds their habit. Mail theft is an epidemic, undoubtedly tied with the epidemic of methamphetamine abuse! To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox to keep your mail from would-be identity thieves. In St. Paul, you can find the Mail Boss at Frattallone’s Ace Hardware and 7 Corners Hardware.

Man charged with mail theft
WAVE 3 – 10/4/11

(JEFFERSONTOWN, KENTUCKY) “Jeffersontown police have arrested a man who they say was going around stealing mail from businesses.

According to the arrest report, an officer spotted 32-year-old Jacob Vance taking mail out of mailboxes and stuffing them in his pants.

jacob_vance_KYPolice say Vance tried to say he worked for DirecTv. Investigators say the envelopes Vance took contained checks.

Vance is charged with theft of mail and tampering with physical evidence.”

Woman indicted for bank fraud, identity theft
Waynesville Daily Guide – 10/4/11

(SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI) “[A] Springfield, Mo., woman was indicted by a federal grand jury for a bank fraud scheme that involved stealing checks from the mail and using stolen identities to pass them at local businesses.

Rhiannon L. Green, 22, of Springfield, was charged in a 20-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield.

The indictment alleges that, between April 17 and Aug. 6, 2011, Green stole checks from business and residential mailboxes in the Springfield area. She allegedly altered the checks and forged the mail theft victims’ names then passed, or attempted to pass, the checks at local businesses to purchase electronic equipment such as computers and iPods. Green allegedly used counterfeit identification cards in the names of the mail theft victims in order to pass the forged checks and defraud the banks on which the checks were drawn. Green later returned the merchandise, the indictment says, for a cash “refund” of the purchase price.

According to the indictment, Green stole and forged at least 40 checks, resulting in a loss of at least $9,927. Green attempted to defraud the banks on which these forged checks were drawn by attempting to pass additional forged checks totaling at least $3,136. […]”

COMMENTS: Your mail has a ton of personal information that can be used for identity theft. It’s easy for criminals to steal incoming and outgoing mail. Most victims don’t even realize when this happens! Sometimes they’ll even leave the junk mail so you don’t suspect anything is missing…

To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox to keep incoming mail safe from would-be ID thieves, and never send checks from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.

Suspected mail thief arrested
NBC 12 – 10/4/11

(RICHMOND, VIRGINIA) “A man police say was caught in the act stealing mail from businesses in Chesterfield, is behind bars.

This happened at the Chesterfield Industrial Park on Whitepine Road, near the county airport.

Police say witnesses reported seeing Izell Thomas Ormond III stealing mail Sunday night from several mailboxes.

18 businesses are in the complex. Police are trying to figure out which mailboxes were targeted. Ormond is charged with 7 counts of petty larceny, which is a felony.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the easiest and most common ways criminals obtain sensitive information for identity theft. Residents and businesses alike need to be vigilant with their mail. Use a high security locking mailbox to keep would-be ID thieves from stealing checks, bank statements, credit card offers, etc. Do not send sensitive mail from an unlocked mailbox – bring checks directly to the post office or use online bill pay… it’s more secure!

Crime Blotter: Mail Stolen
Montrose Patch – 10/2/11

(MONTROSE, CALIFORNIA) “Mail Theft and Forgery: Two women reported to deputies that mail had been stolen from their mailboxes, located in the 1900 block of Foothill Blvd. in front of the Chase Bank.

Both victims reported that approximately 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept 21, a woman came to their homes with envelopes of their mail that she had found on the ground beside the mailboxes. Both victims reported the envelopes had been opened and the contents were missing.

Once victim went to the La Crescenta post office to report the alleged theft. According to the report, she was told that the post office knew of the problem and had checked the mailbox. Post office employees found the lock worked properly. She was reportedly advised to file a police report. The victim put a stop payment on the missing checks and closed her bank account.

The second victim checked her bank account online and found that the check she attempted to mail was altered and cashed, the amount, memo line and who the check was made out to changed. She contacted her bank’s fraud department and closed her account.

Deputies advised both victims to place fraud alerts with credit bureaus.”

COMMENTS: It is not clear from this story whether the mail was stolen from a blue USPS box or from the victims’ residential mailboxes. Regardless, it is necessary to be vigilant with both incoming and outgoing mail! Use a locking mailbox for incoming mail, and use online bill pay instead of writing checks when possible – it’s more secure! Gel pens are more difficult to wash and should be used for writing checks whenever possible.

Traffic stop in South Kitsap yields big stash of stolen mail
Kitsap Sun – 9/30/11

(SOUTH KITSAP, WASHINGTON) “Two men were arrested early Friday after a big stash of stolen mail was found in a pickup truck they were in.

Robert John Butler, 25, and Jeffrey Thomas Adams, 40, both of Port Orchard, were arrested and charged Friday […].

A blue backpack deputies discovered in the bed of the truck was stuffed with dozens of pieces of opened mail that didn’t belong to the truck’s occupants. The deputies also noticed stacks of mail inside the truck, also with different names and addresses.

The mail included checks and correspondence with sensitive bank-account information on it. Butler had someone else’s debit card in his pocket.

Deputies contacted one of the people whose name was on the stolen mail, and the man confirmed it was missing. […]”

Authorities will consider additional charges and intend to identify all victims of the alleged mail thefts.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common causes of identity theft. If you don’t have a locked mailbox it’s very easy for criminals to take your mail. Retrieving mail promptly is not adequate, as many thieves are so brazen they will even follow the postal carrier! Protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox, available at Scott McLendon’s Hardware in Port Orchard. And never send sensitive mail from your curbside mailbox, as outgoing mail can be used for ID theft too. Bring it directly to the post office, or use online bill pay!

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