The following are a round up of mail-identity theft reports, stolen mail police blotters, and mail theft advisories from across the nation, Dec. 6-Dec. 9, 2011.
Kansas City, MISSOURI: A nationwide counterfeit check ring based in Atlanta, Georgia is now operating in the Kansas City area, using the homeless to pass over $7 million in counterfeit checks. The ID theft ring is obtaining sensitive information for check fraud by stealing mail from businesses in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. Three Atlanta-based conspirators allegedly obtained bank routing information of business bank accounts by stealing incoming mail, which they then used to generate counterfeit checks. The homeless were hired to pass counterfeit checks. The scheme has been dubbed “Operation Homeless” by the US Postal Inspection Service because the conspirators have recruited homeless individuals to pass counterfeit checks across the nation, paying them with a portion of the stolen funds. A break in the case came after approximately 20 business parks in Olathe, Kansas were hit in October and November 2011. Their incoming mail was stolen and other mail was found discarded nearby.
- Kansas City infoZine (12.9.11) – Atlanta Counterfeit Check Ring Comes to Greater Kansas City
COMMENTS: What a crazy elaborate scheme! This just goes to show how complex these mail-identity theft schemes are and how deep they run. There are often multiple levels with the “grabbers” working separately from the people who use the information fraudulently, which makes these cases very difficult to solve and prosecute. It doesn’t help that often the victims don’t even realize when their mail has been stolen. Residents and businesses alike need to be vigilant with their mail, which contains a wealth of sensitive information including checks, account numbers, bank statements and more, all of which can be used for identity theft. Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, and never send checks or bill payments from an unsecured mailbox.
Spring Lake Park, MINNESOTA: Two suspects have been arrested for stealing mail directly out of residential mailboxes in Spring Lake Park. Police say the thieves were looking for checks. Mail theft has been on the rise in Minnesota, with other reports of incidents in Woodbury, Oakdale, Wayzata and Shakopee.
- My FOX 9 (12.9.11) – Mail Theft in Spring Lake Park, 2 Arrested
COMMENTS: Mail theft is so common! In your mailbox thieves can find checks, gift cards, and sensitive information for identity theft. Most people don’t even realize when their mail has been stolen, as they don’t know what’s coming in the mail from day to day. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox to keep thieves from stealing your mail and your identity. You can find the Mail Boss at Frattalone’s Ace Hardware or Mills Fleet Farm. Also, never send checks or bill payments from an unlocked mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.
Clark County, WASHINGTON: Two Clark County residents have been apprehended and are facing federal charges related to mail theft cases in Vancouver and the Prune Hill area of Camas. Since their arrest, postal inspectors have seen a decrease in mail thefts in Clark County. The two worked separately and together, and targeted cluster mailboxes as well as residential mailboxes.
- The Columbian (12.8.11) – Two face federal charges in Clark County mail thefts
COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the easiest and most common ways criminals obtain your sensitive information for identity theft. Residential unlocked mailboxes are easy targets, but so are many locking mailboxes that feature low-quality locks and are easy to pry open. Mail thieves often target cluster boxes (CBUs) as in this story, because they are easy to get into and they contain lots of peoples information. Use a high security locking mailbox that can’t be easily pried open or fished to prevent mail-identity theft. If you are required to use a cluster box and break-ins are common, consider a PO Box instead. Remember, never send checks or bill payments from an unlocked mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.
Toldeo, OHIO: Toledo police are warning residents to watch out for mail theft this holiday season. Apparently, thieves are stealing from mailboxes in broad daylight in hopes of finding, checks, gift cards and Christmas cash.
- ABC 13 (12.7.11) – Thief stealing mail in Toldeo neighborhood
COMMENTS: To protect yourself from mail identity theft, use a high security locked mailbox like Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, and never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. In Toledo, you can special order the Mail Boss from your local Ace Hardware.
Prairieville, LOUISIANA: A New Orleans woman has been arrested and two others are wanted for stealing mail from residential mailboxes in Prairieville. Investigators think there could be as many as eight others involved in the mailbox thefts. They allegedly steal checks from mailboxes and then alter them or wash them and cash them fraudulently at various locations.
- WAFB 9 (12.7.11) – New Orleans woman arrested for mailbox thefts, 2 others sought
- Gonzales Weekly Citizen (12.7.11) – Stolen mail investigation underway in parish
COMMENTS: These people are stealing checks from OUTGOING mail. Remember, no outgoing mail is secure. You should bring checks or bill payments directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s safer. It’s also important to realize that theft of incoming mail is very common too, and in all likelihood these people are taking incoming mail as well. It’s just most people don’t realize when their incoming mail has been stolen as they don’t know what is coming in the mail from day to day. To protect yourself, in addition to being cautious with outgoing mail, use a high security locking mailbox. You can find them at Stine Lumber in Walker LA.
POLICE BLOTTERS Nationwide: Residents are reporting theft of incoming and outgoing mail on a regular basis across the nation. Sometimes thefts happen during the day while other times thieves strike at night. A compilation of police blotters are included below.
- West Seattle, WASHINGTON: West Seattle Blog (12.8.11) – West Seattle Crime Watch: Burglary investigation; mail theft
- Los Gatos, CALIFORNIA: Los Gatos Patch (12.8.11) – Police Arrest Six Car Burglar Suspects: Suspects were involved in three different cases, all apprehended with the help of resident tips, police dog; one other suspect remains at large.
- Fountain Valley, CALIFORNIA: Fountain Valley Patch (12.8.11) – Local Man Reports Theft of $17,000 through Forged Checks: Police reports from around Fountain Valley.
- Bend, OREGON: Bend Bulletin (12.7.11) – News of record: Police Log
- Gilroy, CALIFORNIA: Gilroy Patch (12.7.11) – Criminal Acts: Stolen Christmas Presents
COMMENTS: Mail thefts are frequently included in police blotters when there are just a few incidents here are there – not enough for a big story. That said, most victims of mail theft do not even realize when their mail has been stolen, and many more do not know they should report mail theft to the police. Here is a primer on what to do if your mail is stolen.
Stealing mail is one of the easiest ways thieves can obtain sensitive account information. Sending checks from an unsecured mailbox leaves you wide open to check fraud, and receiving mail in an unlocked mailbox can put your sensitive information right in the hands of identity thieves. Use precaution with mail. Use a secure locking mailbox to protect incoming mail, and never send sensitive mail (checks, bill payments, etc.) from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. These simple steps will help protect against mail-identity theft.
HOLIDAY MAIL-ID THEFT Nationwide: Authorities are warning residents that mail thefts are on the rise, as opportunistic thieves are looking to steal cash, checks, gift cards and packages from the mail during the holiday season. Take precautions when sending and receiving holiday mail and packages. Use a locking mailbox and send mail with checks or gift cards from a secure mailbox. Never send cash in the mail.
- Savage, MINNESOTA: Savage Pacer (12.7.11) – Postal service offers mail security tips
- Charlotte, NORTH CAROLINA: WBTV 3 (12.6.11) – Police see increase in stolen holiday packages
COMMENTS: Mail theft rises over the holiday season as opportunistic thieves are looking for cash, checks and gift cards in the mail, but all year long they can find your sensitive information for identity theft in your mailbox. In fact, mail theft is one of the most common and easiest ways for ID thieves to steal your personal information. To protect yourself, use a locking mailbox to secure incoming mail, and never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Take checks and bill payments directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Remember, never send checks in the mail. Gift cards are same as cash. Unless your sending/receiving both ways from a secure mailbox, better to give online gift cards or find an alternative!
Holiday season is prime time for mail theft, but any time of year thieves can steal sensitive information for identity theft right out of your mailbox. Removing your mail promptly is not always adequate, since many thieves are so brazen they follow the postal carriers. To protect yourself from the fast-growing crime of mail identity theft, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss.