Mail Identity Theft: Feb 25-Mar 10

Prescription drugs stolen from mailbox: Orange Police Blotter
Chagrin Solon Sun – 3/10/11

(ORANGE, ILLINOIS) “THEFT FROM MAILS, BRAINARD ROAD: Police are investigating the apparent theft of prescription medication sent through the mail late last month. The victim was not sure if it was Feb. 25 or the next day that she found the ripped plastic mailer along the opposite side of the roadway from her house. Taken were two 180-count bottles of Tramadol, which the victim described as a “mild painkiller” she had ordered from St. Louis for about $10.

She was advised to contact police if she sees anyone loitering in the area of her mailbox, and the information was passed on to postal inspectors. […]”

COMMENTS: The victim is lucky if only her prescription medication was stolen from the mail, as a wealth of sensitive financial information – far more valuable to identity thieves – is often delivered via the residential mailbox. Given the prevalence of mail-identity theft, and especially if you live in an area like this one where thieves are blatantly targeting mailboxes, it is absolutely essential to to use a high security locked mailbox to protect yourself.

Qns. Village residents fear identity theft: Stolen mail worries 105th Ave homeowners – 3/10/11

(QUEENS VILLAGE, NEW YORK) “Residents of a Queens Village block have been concerned about possible identity theft after some of them received letters in the mail last week indicating parcels were stolen on their mail route.

Charlton D’souza, a homeowner on 105th Avenue, said he was outraged that an alert had not been issued throughout the community.

“The way [the post office] treats us, they didn’t even notify the community board,” D’souza said during an interview on his block Monday. “They didn’t notify the congressman. It’s ridiculous.”

D’souza said he was also angered because the letter from the postal inspector’s office was dated Feb. 17, but he did not receive the missive until Feb. 28.

“Regular mail is sent quickly, so why are they doing this to our community?” he asked. “Why was it sent 11 or 12 days after the fact? Identity theft can happen really fast.”

D’souza also said the letter was not specific enough to ascertain exactly what happened to the mail.

“To be honest with you, we don’t know what’s going on,” he said.

Yesult Beltfort, the postal inspector who sent the letter, could not be reached for comment, nor could the U.S. Postal Inspection Office.

[…] Cynthia Gordon said she did not receive her mortgage notice or Con Edison bill, which she said usually arrives around the time the stolen mail notification was given. Gordon said she did not receive the letter.

“I just thought [the missing mail] may be because from all the snow,” she said.

Robert Taylor, another 105th Avenue resident who also used to be a mail carrier, said he was shocked after receiving the letter, but does not believe any of his mail was stolen. Taylor said he was concerned the letter was not specific enough. […]

His wife, Marie Taylor, accused the postal service of being incompetent. “I don’t trust them up there,” she said. “It seems they’re not doing what they’re supposed to.” […]”

COMMENTS: These people are lucky because at least they have been alerted their mail may have been stolen and can take the necessary precautions: What To Do If Your Mail Is Stolen. Most people are not so lucky: the majority of identity theft victims do not know how their information was compromised.

Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain your sensitive information for ID theft. According to Javelin Strategy, of the victims who know how their ID was compromised (only about 1/3) the majority was via low-tech methods: Stolen wallets, stolen mail, and stolen trash. To prevent mail identity theft, use a high security locking mailbox, and never send sensitive documents like checks from an unsecured mailbox. Also, shred sensitive information (most of which comes in the mail) before discarding it.

Residents Warned About Mail Thefts: Checks reported stolen from mailboxes in a local neighborhood. IRS, Postal Service issue tips on protecting your mail during tax season.
Sherman Oaks Patch – 3/10/11

(SHERMAN OAKS, CALIFORNIA) “Residents of a Sherman Oaks neighborhood were warned to protect their mail after several thefts from mailboxes were reported there during the past week.

The thefts reportedly occurred in the neighborhood known as Vista Oaks, north of the 101 Freeway.

“In one case, on Tobias Avenue, a person received a birthday card in the mail but the envelope had been steamed open and a $200 check was taken,” said Kristin Sales, who is the Neighborhood Watch captain for the area.

Another incident occurred on Willis Avenue. “This time a person had written a check to the gas company and hung the letter on his mailbox on Sunday night. The next day one of his neighbors found the envelope had been torn open and the check was gone,” Sales said.

[…] During income-tax season, mail thefts become more prevalent. So far, no thefts of tax-refund checks have been reported in the Valley Oaks area. The Internal Revenue Service has issued a tax tip that tells people that “direct deposit is the fastest, safest way to receive your tax refund.”

[…] The United States Postal Service has issued these guidelines for protecting mail:

Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you are expecting checks or credit cards.

  • If you don’t receive a check you are expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
  • Always deposit your mail in the mail slot at your local post office, or hand it to your letter carrier.
  • Never send cash or coins in the mail; use checks or money orders instead.
  • If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business.

“It’s unclear if these mail thefts are the beginning of a trend,” Sales said. “But if you believe you have been the victim of mail theft, please inform your block captain and file a report with the postal police or postal inspectors online.” […]”

COMMENTS: The USPS always makes the same recommendations but omit the most important piece of advice: Use a quality locking mailbox to prevent mail theft. This may be because they do not want to draw attention to the prevalence of mail theft, as they regularly downplay the frequency of occurrence. To keep sensitive financial information from would-be ID thieves, use a high security locked mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver, AND follow the above steps recommended by the USPS. In addition, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come via the mail) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Police Blotter: Wellington woman arrives home, finds her mailbox missing
Palm Beach Post News – 3/9/11

(WELLINGTON, FLORIDA) “Sheriff’s Office, Wellington […] CRIMINAL MISCHIEF: A woman arrived home in the 13600 block of Yarmouth Court to find her mailbox missing. […]”

COMMENTS: While this crime is categorized as “criminal mischief” it could more accurately be described as “mail theft”, which is a federal offense. One of the reasons mail theft is such a serious crime is because it is one of the most common ways thieves obtain sensitive information for identity theft. With the wealth of personal and financial documents that arrive via the residential mailbox, it is very important to have a safe and secure locking mail box like the Mail Boss.

Stolen Mail, Broken Windows and Possession of Marijuana: Homewood Police Blotter
Homewood-Flossmoor Patch – 3/8/11

(HOMEWOOD, ILLINOIS) Homewood police reports, Mar. 1-7: […] Saturday, March 5 – Stolen Mail: Someone stole a Homewood man’s mail-order iPod Touch from his mailbox between 11:10 a.m. and 11:20 a.m., according to police. The stolen iPod is valued at $364.95, according to police. […]”

COMMENTS: This man noticed his “mail” stolen because he was expecting the delivery of his iPod Touch. If thieves are targeting these kind of valuable packages, you can bet they are also targeting other valuable mail – namely, sensitive financial documents for identity theft. Most victims do not realize when their mail has been stolen, which correlates with research that indicates that the majority of identity theft victims do not know how their information was compromised. To protect yourself from mail and package theft, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss or the MailBoss Package Master.

Fighting teens, stolen mailbox, and more
TribLocal Hinsdale – 3/8/11

(HINSDALE, ILLINOIS) “[…] The following items were taken from the Hinsdale Police blotter March 8: […] Theft […] A wooden mailbox valued at $150 was taken from a home at the 800 block of Merrill Woods Road sometime between 4 p.m. on March 6 and 7:30 a.m. March 7. […]”

COMMENTS: Somehow I doubt the thief was stealing the mailbox for aesthetic appeal, as the contents can be much more valuable to a seasoned identity thief. In your mailbox a crook can find a host of personal sensitive information including bank statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks, and more. To protect yourself, use a security mailbox like the Mail Boss that cannot be stolen, fished by hand, or easily pried open with a screwdriver.

Scappoose Crash Leads To Drug Arrest: Driver Booked At Columbia Co. Jail
Fox 12 – 3/8/11

sthelensORmailtheft(ST. HELENS, OREGON) “A crash in Scappoose has led to the arrest of one of the drivers involved on multiple unrelated charges. […] Deputies say their investigation revealed the 22-year-old suspect had a suspended license from a DUII arrest and was on probation […].

Authorities then obtained two search warrants and said they found Bertasso in possession of several different drugs, including marijuana and OxyContin.

She’s also accused of having stolen mail, credit cards and jewelry, among other items. Deputies say Bertasso was “involved heavily in the illegal drug world.”

She now faces a laundry list of charges: violation of a release agreement, contempt of court, criminal driving while suspended, reckless driving, burglary, unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, criminal trespass, theft and possession of meth, marijuana, oxycodone, Oxycontin and hydrocodone.”

COMMENTS: Drug abuse and identity theft often go hand in hand, as thieves can obtain cash or trade stolen mail and sensitive documents for drugs. As methamphetamine abuse has skyrocketed, so has mail-identity theft – this is no coincidence! To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, and never send sensitive documents like checks from an unsecured mail box. As always, shred sensitive documents – most of which come in the mailbox – before discarding them.

Strong man charged in mailbox break-in, theft
Sun Journal – 3/4/11

(FARMINGTON, MAINE) “A man from Strong faces charges after a surveillance video allegedly showed him breaking into a locked mailbox Wednesday and taking an item, police secretary Bonnie Pomeroy said Thursday. Curtis Moody, 42, was arrested on charges of criminal mischief, theft by unauthorized taking and violating condition of release, she said.

He allegedly attempted to pry open one mailbox and got into another at an apartment complex on Fairbanks Road, she said. Officer Kim Bates put out a warrant for Moody’s arrest and he was located later Wednesday at a residence in Strong, Pomeroy said.

It is believed the item taken from one of the boxes was a prescription, she said. Two mailboxes were damaged. Moody was still at the Franklin County jail on Thursday afternoon.”

COMMENTS: Most locking mailboxes are exceedingly easy to violate with a household screwdriver, and many can even be fished by hand! Not the Mail Boss, made of 12- and 14-gauge galvanized powder-coated steel. With the patented anti-pry latch locking mechanism, it cannot be easily pried open nor can it be fished by hand. To stop mail-identity theft use a high security locked mailbox like the Mail Boss and take precautions with your mail – do not send sensitive documents or checks from an unsecured mailbox and always shred your mail before discarding it.

2 teens charged with stealing check from Ulster mailbox
Times Herald Record – 3/4/11

(KINGSTON, NEW YORK) “Two Kingston teens were arrested Tuesday after allegedly stealing a check from a mailbox. Town police said Timothy Evans, 18, and Atrelluis Jackson, 17, took the check from a Kiersted Avenue mailbox and tried to cash it at a local credit union, but were denied the money. The duo were identified through video surveillance and arrested Wednesday. Evans was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony, while Jackson faces misdemeanor petty larceny charges.”

COMMENTS: The report does not indicate whether it was incoming or outgoing mail that was stolen. However, both are common targets of identity thieves. Incoming mail often includes bank account statements, credit card offers, and other sensitive information including checks, while outgoing mail often includes account numbers, checks and more. Victims do not realize when their mail has been stolen until it is too late.

To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, and never send sensitive mail or checks from an unsecured mailbox; bring bill payments to the post office or use electronic online bill pay – it’s more secure.

Man charged with rash of mail thefts
The Sealy News – 3/3/11

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) “A Wallis man has been arrested and linked to a rash of U.S. mail thefts in Austin and surrounding counties for more than eight months.

Harry E. Jenkins, Jr. of Wallis, Fort Bend County was arrested by Austin County Sheriff’s Office investigators, with assistance from the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, and charged with 13 counts of fraudulent use/ possession of identifying information or identity theft, a second degree felony, in Austin County.

[…] Investigators say Jenkins is tied to mail thefts that date back to at least July 2010. He’s also been charged with credit card abuse and possession of marijuana in Waller County.

Jenkins was arrested after a Waller County resident observed him going through his mail, according to ACSO Sgt. Kyle Fredericksen. The resident followed Jenkins and was able to stop him and hold him at gunpoint until deputies arrived.

A search of the suspect’s vehicle revealed U.S. mail from at least 40 homes in four counties. Jenkins was also in possession of numerous credit and debit cards and blank checks that were stolen from residential mailboxes.

According to Fredericksen, Jenkins would allegedly steal the mail, take out the credit and debit cards and the checks and then went on a spending spree. Property was also recovered that Jenkins purchased with the stolen cards and checks. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves obtain sensitive information for identity theft. Most victims do not even realize when their mail has been stolen. The best defense is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss – keep your bank account statements, credit card offers, medical documents and more safe from would-be identity theft. The Mail Boss is 40 lbs of galvanized steel, and features patented security features including the anti-pry latch locking mechanism. In addition, never send sensitive documents like checks from an unsecured mailbox, and always shred sensitive documents – most of which come in the mailbox – before discarding them.

Police Blotter: Burglars, dopers, vehicle smash n’ grabs, mail theft, threats by Facebook against teen, ID theft and more
Sky Valley Chronicle – 3/1/11

(SNOHOMISH, WASHINGTON) “[…] Theft 2nd Degree / Theft of Mail 1000 Lake Crest Dr 1 – A young woman came to the PD to report a fraud. Someone had cashed the check she receives for her tuition. The bank is investigating as well. […]

Fraud-Impersonation (Identity Theft) 400 Avenue I – Theft of identity used in Southern California. […]”

Mail stolen from box, cameras from woods
The Carmi Times – 2/28/11

(CARMI, ILLINOIS) “David D. Dosher, 48, 448 County Road 1580 E., Enfield, reported Friday afternoon to a White County sheriff’s deputy he is failing to receive his mail.

The sheriff’s office incident report listed a number of items he has failed to receive, including a number of checks. Dosher also filed a report with the U.S. Postal Service. […]”

COMMENTS: Because we receive sensitive items like checks along with bank account statements, credit card offers and more in the mail, it is necessary to use a security locking mailbox to prevent mail-identity theft. Simple as that.

Protecting Yourself from Credit Card Fraud
South Pasadena Patch – 2/27/11

(SOUTH PASADENA, CALIFORNIA) “With the rise of credit card fraud […], South Pasadena Police Detectives offered tips on how to avoid being the victim of fraud.

According to Detective Richard Lee, the South Pasadena Police Department receives an average of one credit card fraud report per week. These reports range from stolen mail to credit card skimmers […].

[…] Lee also said credit cards are safer to use than debit cards. “Credit cards have a lot more buyer protection,” he said. “Criminals prefer debit cards, since they are connected to checking accounts and they are able to make cash withdrawals,” he wrote in a recent crime newsletter.

Tips from South Pasadena Police Detectives:

  • When using any ATM, look for any signs of tampering. Give the card reader a quick tug to see if a skimmer has been placed over it.
  • Cover your hand when entering your PIN. Keep a watch for “shoulder surfers.”
  • Notify your bank when you leave and return to the country.
  • Review credit card statements on a regular basis.
  • Shred any old credit cards, statements and receipts.
  • Keep a record of your account numbers and bank contact phone number.
  • Notify your bank immediately should you suspect any fraudulent charges.
  • Check the authenticity of merchants before ordering online and be sure to use a secure web browser.
  • Be careful with outgoing and incoming mail. Get a P.O. Box or a mailbox with a lock to protect your new credit or debit cards, bank statements and credit card statements. Do not put outgoing bills in your mailbox.
  • Pay attention to billing cycles. Immediately call your bank or credit card company if you don’t receive your bill.
  • To avoid check fraud, guard your checkbook like cash, reconcile your statements and shred old or canceled checks. Also, never endorse a check until you are ready to deposit it.

COMMENTS: In general, low-tech methods of identity theft are most common – stolen wallets/purses, mail theft, dumpster diving. Some good tips here to protect yourself, significantly use a locked mailbox and don’t send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Use online bill pay instead. It’s important to realize that not all locking mailboxes are secure – many highly vulnerable to fishing by hand, and most all are vulnerable to leveraged entry with a household screwdriver. A good high security option is Mail Boss available at your local Ace Hardware.

Stolen identity
Anderson Independent Mail – 2/26/11

(ANDERSON COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA) “[…]Breaking into cars is one of the most popular ways for identity thieves in Anderson to get what they can use to buy gift cards, make payments on stolen credit cards, sell to brokers online or otherwise abuse a victim’s finances.

The other major ways are stealing mail and forging checks, according to Chad McBride, a spokesman for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and an expert on ID theft. More advanced methods, like reading credit cards with portable electronic devices, are just beginning to get traction in the Upstate.

[…] A Chrysler Town and Country van was stolen around 11 a.m. from an AnMed Health parking lot, but a GPS device in the car allowed police to find the thieves. Inside the stolen van investigators found a treasure trove of credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, Social Security cards and a prescription card. […]

“If you go out to my car right now, there’s insurance and registration that you’re required to have. It may not have all your personal information on it, but maybe there’s a receipt for car repairs or a yellowing medical office bill under a seat and that will have your Social Security number on it,” McBride said. “Even if you don’t have a purse or wallet in there, people can find information about you in your car.”

[…] The methods that are more common in the Anderson area have been around for decades, but are still effective for criminals.

For example, Probate Judge Martha Newton’s mail was intercepted in 2006 and two people were able to steal her identity and ring up more than $1,066 in charges.

“It was over $1,000 before I realized that, hey, something is going on,” Newton said. “It took several months to get everything back together. You don’t think about some little things you have to fix.”

In addition to changing her banking account and cancelling her credit cards, Newton had to talk to utility companies and change several automatic draft accounts.

Kevin Dale Hayes, 35, and Wendy Diane Sisk, 39, were convicted of stealing Newton’s identification. The pair stole mail from several people to get check routing numbers, bank account information, home addresses and other information, according to sheriff’s investigation reports.

Hayes has been convicted or pleaded guilty to dozens of financial crimes in the past several years. He is not the only one involved.

“There are people out there right now, eight hours a day, checking people’s mailboxes,” McBride said.

Jerry Edward Milliken, 24, of Greenville, was sentenced Tuesday to spend 81 months in jail and to pay restitution of $36,000 for his role in a criminal conspiracy that targeted the post office’s big blue street mailboxes.

In a four-month period in 2008 the conspiracy involved the theft of hundreds of pieces of mail from 22 Greenville-area mail deposit boxes. Thieves cashed dozens of counterfeit checks to buy methamphetamine, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney. Businesses in the area lost at least $36,000 because of those mail thieves.

[…] In most cases victims of identity theft are able to recover their money, although it may take weeks or much longer to fix credit reports and otherwise repair finances. […]”

COMMENTS: To protect yourself from mail-identity theft, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver; this secures your incoming mail, bank statements, credit card offers, etc. Never send bill payments or credit card info from an unsecured mailbox; bring checks directly to the post office, or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

Police Blotter: Theft of Outgoing Mail; Forgery
Naperville Patch – 2/25/11

(NAPERVILLE, ILLINOIS) “[…] Theft of outgoing mail: Police said a 42-year-old man, of the 2600 block of Hoddam Road in Naperville, reported that someone stole outgoing mail from his mailbox. He reported that it was taken around 4 a.m.”

COMMENTS: It is never a good idea to leave sensitive mail including checks or bill payments with credit card information in an unsecured mailbox. Bring this mail directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. In addition, residents should use a security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail from would-be identity thieves, and shred mail before discarding it to stop dumpster divers.

Emergency services: Felony arrests
Mail Tribune – 2/25/11

(WHITE CITY, OREGON) “[…] Burglary, identity theft, mail theft — Keith Matthew Halaas, 29, of the 7800 block of Laura Lane, White City. Halaas appeared Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court on an indictment charging him with second-degree theft, second-degree burglary, two counts of identity theft, three counts of mail theft, attempted second-degree theft and possession of synthetic drugs. He was booked into jail and released on his own recognizance. […]”

COMMENTS: Criminals target mailboxes to steal sensitive information for identity theft. They can sell stolen mail for cash in identity theft rings, or even trade it for methamphetamine. It’s a serious problem in southern Oregon, and across the country! To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to protect incoming mail (available at Big R in White City, OR) and be careful to never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Use online bill pay whenever possible.

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