Mail theft on the rise in Clark County: Van Mall neighbors want their community mailbox relocatedThe Columbian – 11/18/11
The couple report that someone got into individual boxes several times in the past month. Officials repaired the boxes at least twice, Lloyd said, but the problem persists.
The Arvidsons and their neighbors aren’t the only ones dealing with this problem.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has received an increased amount of mail theft complaints in Clark County in the past month or so, spokeswoman Shannon Hall said.
“We’ve been devoting a lot of time and a lot more resources to deal with increased complaints,” primarily from people with community mailboxes, Hall said.
Mail theft is an everyday occurrence in the county, especially with community mailboxes, said Sgt. Scott Schanaker, spokesman for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He hasn’t heard of a recent increase in reported thefts.
Neither has the Vancouver Police Department. Police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said the crime increases during the holidays, especially when people might be sending cash or gift cards in the mail.
Break-ins are such a common occurrence for the Arvidsons’ community box that they opted to spend $35 to rent a post office box for six months at the local post office — even though their individual mailbox has never been broken into.
They say the post office box isn’t too costly but is an inconvenience and not an option for all the neighborhood residents, many of whom are elderly. […] Lloyd thinks the best option is to move the community box off Northeast 54th Street and into the residential area and, preferably, under a streetlight.
Lloyd is in the process of talking with post office personnel to find out what would need to be done to move the box. If the box is owned by the homeowners, they will have to pay to have it moved. He hopes to hear back sometime this week.
Neighbor Mike Williams agrees that the moving the mailbox is a good idea. “As long as they have it in that dark place where no one can see it,” it’s going to get broken into, he said.
Williams’ box was broken into once, but he wasn’t sure if anything was taken.
Carol Smith’s community mailbox, in the North Garrison Heights neighborhood, was also hit a few weeks ago, she said. “You feel like you’ve been invaded,” Smith said.
She said she didn’t receive any notice from the post office about the break-in, but her mail was held until locks on the individual boxes were repaired. When she visited the local post office to get a new key, she said an employee told her that quite a few mailboxes around the county have been hit lately.
Other customers confirmed that. “Everybody seemed to know somebody that had gotten hit,” she said.
Another string of thefts occurred in the Prune Hill area of Camas.
There were four reported thefts in September, two in October and six so far in November, said Carlos Gonzalez, an officer with the Camas Police Department. Each month, the individual thefts came in on the same day and were probably linked to one community mailbox that thieves broke into, he said.
Gonzalez didn’t see any reports of mail theft this year before August.
An investigation is ongoing but oftentimes there aren’t a lot of resources available, postal inspection service spokeswoman Hall said.
“There aren’t videos out there to get the people breaking in,” she said. “Sometimes we get lucky and our customers will have video. Sometimes people will get license plate numbers. The majority of the time, it’s following the paper trail,” that leads to the suspects. […]”
COMMENTS: Community mailboxes are frequently targeted because (1) they have low-security locks and are easy to pry open, and (2) they have many people’s mail – more bang for the proverbial buck. Thieves can steal lots of people’s mail at once to use for identity theft. On the bright side, at least when mail is stolen from CBUs the victims know it because the damage is obvious. Then they can take appropriate actions. The obvious bummer is that thieves will continue to target them so long as they lack security. I don’t think moving to a well lit area would necessarily help that much, since many thieves are so brazen they will even follow the carrier in broad daylight!
I will say, this should be an eye opener for all residents, as if you are using an unlocked mailbox you really have no way of knowing if your mail is stolen unless you see it happen (rare). You may not even suspect anything until you are a victim of ID theft and the majority of ID theft victims do not know how their information was compromised. For anyone with an unlocked mailbox now’s the time to get a security mailbox. And for everyone forced to use cluster boxes, I would recommend getting a PO Box or opting in to e-bills for everything possible to minimize all the sensitive documents sent via mail.
Missing Mail in South Augusta?
WJBF6 – 11/17/11
(AUGUSTA, GEORGIA) “It’s an unusual type of crime that’s got some south Augusta neighbors on edge.
Those who live on Henderson Road, off Hephzibah-McBean Road, say someone stole their mail and then threw the packaging on the streets.
Neighbors say the postal problems started back in July and say they only realized their mail was missing, when other companies notified them about missing their bill payments.
For the last few months, the McKinneys have kept a close watch on their mail box.
“You know it’s almost on a daily basis. I have to go get the mail so it is not stolen,” said Bobby McKinney.
And when Pam McKinney and her husband Bobby noticed empty envelopes on their street, they realized they weren’t the only victims.
“I’ve also found stuff from a lady that’s being investigated from the IRS and all her stuff is being laid out on the road. What might happen to her? Could her house be foreclosed because someone has stolen her mail?” asked Pam McKinney.
So, Pam McKinney walked down the entire stretch of Henderson Road, to pick up all the discarded mail. But, when she tried to return the mail, she says workers at the Post Office told her she couldn’t deliver them back because it’s federal property.
“I got on Facebook and put a message, saying…’if you are missing any mail on Henderson Road, please contact me’,” said Pam McKinney. “I quit using the mailbox altogether and started using the Post Office. I have, in the past, found mail and put the flag up so the post lady can take it to them, but now I am scared to do that because if you put the flag up, they know to come and get it.”
Thursday, the McKinneys dropped off the bag of mail at the Post Office and say they plan to step up security to catch those responsible. But, they’re still worried about identity theft.
“My bank has told me to close out my accounts, or they want to charge me a $35 for each check that hasn’t gone through. I am terrified that, as soon as this goes through, in 6 months, when they cash all those checks, I’ll be thousands and thousands of dollars in debt,” said Pam McKinney.
Hephzibah’s Police Chief says stealing mail is a federal offense and those responsible for the crime can face up to 25 years in jail.”
COMMENTS: Stop living in fear, and do something about the problem! The solution is simple, and three-fold:
- Use a high security locking mailbox that cannot be easily pried open or fished by hand to keep your mail secure from would-be identity thieves. You can get a high security mailbox for under $200 at your local Ace Hardware – this is much less than the cost of a PO Box in the long run, and much more convenient!
- Never send checks or bill payments from your mailbox. The flag tells thieves there is sensitive mail to steal. Bring these items directly to the post office or use online bill pay, which is more secure.
- Shred or otherwise destroy sensitive documents before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers. Just remember many of these documents originate in the mailbox and you must protect them at the source, too.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Warns Of Mail Thefts: Sheriff Says Outgoing Mail Stolen From 5 Mailboxes In Recent Days
WPBF 25 – 11/17/11
(FT. PIERCE, FLORIDA) “St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara is warning residents about outgoing mail being stolen from people’s mailboxes.
“In recent days, thieves have stolen outgoing mail from five county residents,” Mascara said. “Criminals use stolen mail to get bank account numbers and other personal information for identity theft and other forms of fraud.”
The sheriff said this is the time of year that grandparents often mail checks to their grandchildren, allowing thieves an opportunity to steal bank account numbers from the checks.
Mascara recommended that residents take their outgoing mail to a post office or U.S. Postal Service drop box instead.
“The easier you make it for criminals to steal your mail, the more likely it is that someone will steal it,” he said.”
COMMENTS: Stories on mail theft always talk about being careful with outgoing mail but do not address the problem of stolen incoming mail. The biggest difference is when outgoing mail is stolen it is usually checks that are then washed and cashed fraudulently, so the victims realize quite quickly their checks were stolen and can often trace it to their mailbox.
With theft of incoming mail, most people do not even realize it is happening, but that does not mean it is any less of a problem. Not only is it the easiest ways for thieves to steal your information for identity theft, there is also a wealth of highly sensitive personal information in your incoming mail (bank account statements, credit card offers, social security statements, etc.). And since you don’t know what comes in your mail from day to day, you don’t notice when it goes missing! This may help explain why the majority of ID theft victims have no idea how their sensitive information was compromised.
People are quick to blame cyber threats and the internet, but research indicates low-tech methods are the most common ways your information is stolen. Protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox, and remember to always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the unlocked mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.
Bank Lets Milton Resident Know IRS Refund Check Was Stolen
Alpharetta-Milton Patch – 11/17/11
(MILTON, GEORGIA) “A Milton resident learned from Chase Bank that an IRS refund check had been stolen from his mailbox sometime between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7.
The victim contacted Milton police to notify them of the theft after being notified by a Chase Bank representative who called and said that someone had attempted to deposit the check into an unknown account.
The representative said that a police report needed to be filed to receive any additional information.
After filing a report, the victim was advised to also notify the mail carrier USPS. […]”
COMMENTS: When you think about the fact that people receive social security statements, W-4s, tax returns, etc. in the mail, it is crazy that most people do not use locking mailboxes. With the amount of sensitive information that comes in the mail, anyone using an unsecured mailbox is highly vulnerable to identity theft. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Bos, available in the area at Alpharetta Ace Hardware.
Post Crescent – 11/15/11
(APPLETON, WISCONSIN) “[…] Nov. 1 -Theft, 1100 block of Geneva Road. A woman reported that mail was stolen from her mailbox. […]”
COMMENTS: So mail theft actually happens in Wisconsin? We knew it! Well, if you’re looking for protection, look no farther than your neighborhood Mills Fleet Farm, where you can find the Mail Boss locking security mailbox for mail-identity theft protection!
Possible Mail Thefts in Colorado Springs
KKTV – 11/14/11
(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO) “We got a tip into the 11 newsroom that there has been a rash of mail thefts along Brookside on the south side of Colorado Springs. The post office confirms to 11 News, they’re looking into it.
We got a tip into the 11 newsroom that there has been a rash of mail thefts along Brookside on the south side of Colorado Springs. The post office confirms to 11 News, they’re looking into it.
Neighbors say they have noticed some strange things going on – mail on the ground instead of in boxes and envelopes already opened. They told us they’re now looking out for thieves.
“Stuff like this has been…out; stuff that you can clearly see has been unwrapped,” Kacey Watts said, picking up a piece of mail on the ground.
He’s seen mail scattered. It happened to neighbor Greg Vallejo.”
“My mailbox was open, and my magazine was on the floor,” Vallejo said. “So I picked it up, checked my mailbox, looked around and my neighbor’s mailbox was open….and my niece’s mailbox was open.”
He’s now calling his bank to make sure no information was stolen.
“They were stealing mail about five years ago, and the postmaster sent us a letter, saying people were stealing the mail,” Vallejo said. “About two months later, about 10 people were caught, and they were put in prison.”
He says neighbors will be on the lookout now.
COMMENTS: Colorado Springs has had at least four reports of mail theft in the last year alone. It is obviously a fast growing problem, and residents would be wise to protect themselves. Use a secure locked mailbox to keep incoming mail out of the hands of would-be identity thieves, and do not send sensitive information (checks, bill payments, etc.) from an unsecured mailbox!
Creek Diva: Hazards Include Visible Cash, Identity Theft and A Moving Truck
Walnut Creek Patch – 11/12/11
(WALNUT CREEK, CALIFORNIA) “[…] Mail fraud alert. A caller reported that he received an unsolicited Bank of America credit card in his name. He also found out that “someone else stopped his mail and was using his name to obtain credit cards.” Creek Diva advises her readers to keep a diligent eye on your credit reports and lack of incoming mail. […]”
COMMENTS: Mail-identity theft is a regular ooccurrencein Walnut Creek. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, available at Walnut Creek Ace Hardware.
Sacramento woman admits bank fraud, possessing stolen mail
Sacramento Bee – 11/10/11
(SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA) “A Sacramento woman pleaded guilty today in federal court to four counts of bank fraud and a single count of possessing stolen mail.
According to the plea agreement, Polly Ann Conner Bautista, 54, in 2008 took over the identity of postal customers that she found in stolen U.S. mail she had obtained. She used the false identities to obtain money, goods and services by fraud.
In the fall and winter of 2008, Bautista posed as other people to negotiate stolen checks with associated stolen identification information at numerous Sacramento County banks and businesses, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. On Dec. 12, 2008, law enforcement officers searched her residence and found a cache of stolen financial instruments, including checks, credit card account numbers and victims’ personal identification information. They also found stolen U.S. mail belonging to further victims. […]”
COMMENTS: Wow, the Sacramento area has been getting hit really hard with mail-identity theft in the past few days. Clearly it is a big problem! People need to wake up and take precautions.
- Use a locking mailbox. So simple! Protect your incoming mail.
- Use online bill pay. Don’t send sensitive mail from your mailbox. The red flag signals thieves. Bring checks/bill payments directly to the post office if you must, or use online bill pay – it’s safer!
- Shred sensitive documents. But remember, most of what you shred originates in your mailbox. Make sure you protect documents at their source too!
Redmond Police Blotter
Redmond Patch – 11/10/11
(REDMOND, WASHINGTON) “[…] 9:16 a.m., 2200 block of 152nd Ave. NE: Police investigated a mail theft.
11:10 a.m., 16600 block of NE 79th St.: Police responded to a mail theft. […]”
COMMENTS: Ah, mail theft right in our back yard. Mail Boss is based in Redmond, and we do our darnedest to get the word out in our community about the prevalence of mail theft! If you live in Redmond there are a lot of places locally you can find the Mail Boss for well under online retail prices! Just use our Store Locator to find a dealer near you.
4 Accused In Identity Theft Ring: 3 Suspects From Sacramento; Group Caught At Casino
KCRA – 11/10/11
(BUTTE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA) “Four people are being held at the Butte County Jail, accused of being involved with an identify theft ring that has targeted at least 15 people, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Isela Gradilla, of Yuba City, tried to use a fraudulent check at Feather Falls Casino on Nov. 2, sheriff’s officials said.
She was caught, and casino employees also held the three people she came with — later identified as Giovanni Yang, Bernie Nacpil and Angela Vitela, all from Sacramento, according to a news release.
When investigators searched a vehicle used by the suspects, they found check-making materials, printers, computers, fraudulent IDs and stolen property in the form of checks, mail, bank cards and identifications, deputies said.
All 15 victims located so far are from the Sacramento area.
Gradilla will face charges of burglary, forgery and identity theft. Yang and Vitela were booked on identity theft counts.
Nacpil is held on identity theft charges and a no-bail parole hold.”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the easiest ways criminals can steal your personal information for Identity Theft, and most victims do not even realize when their mail has been stolen. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox that cannot be easily pried open or fished by hand. Also 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. Of course, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox!) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.
Postman alerts Spartanburg customer to mail theft
GoUpstate.com – 11/9/11
(SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA) “David Nusz knows what it’s like to be the victim of mail theft. A few years ago, his mail was stolen from his home in Boiling Springs. The experience gave Nusz, 51, a heightened awareness that was relevant for his full-time job as a postal carrier for the United States Postal Service.
Nusz was making deliveries on his daily route off Zion Hill Road in the typically quiet Hillbrook neighborhood when he noticed something wasn’t right. At two homes, he observed that the mailbox flag was up, but no outgoing mail was inside. At the first home, he disregarded it as a mistake. But when he came upon the same situation at a second home a street away, Nusz knew something was wrong.
He walked up the driveway and knocked on the door of Elaine Gauthier, who lives in the county off Thackston Drive.
“(Nusz) said my flag is up and asked if I had any mail in it,” Gauthier said. “I told him it was a check to my insurance company. He said there was nothing there and thought someone had stolen it. I immediately put a stop payment on the check and reported it to the (Spartanburg County) Sheriff’s office.”
Later that evening, Spartanburg Public Safety Department officers arrested Crystal Michelle Chesnee, 46, of 318 Sycamore St., Gaffney. Officers received a call that a forgery was in progress at Dee Tee’s Quick Stop, a store on North Church Street, an incident report said.
Officers found crack cocaine and two credit cards that did not have Chesnee’s name on them in her car and purse, according to the report. […] Chesnee has been charged with forgery, receiving stolen goods, two counts of financial transaction card theft, simple possession of marijuana, cocaine possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Gauthier credited Nusz’s quick thinking to helping save her and her neighbors from a financial fiasco.
“I’m very grateful for him,” she said. “Without him alerting me, I never would have known.”
Nusz, who has been a USPS carrier for 24 years, remained humble.
“I was just doing my job,” he said. “I had a customer on another street earlier that had their flag up with no mail in their box. Sometimes if you have that at consecutive houses it might be kids or something. But something about this just didn’t seem right to me.”
Nusz said mail theft is common near the holidays because thieves know that people are mailing checks.
“(The thief) could have put the flag down and no one would have ever known,” he said. “I’ve had my own personal experience with mail theft. I’m happy to see the outcome (for Gauthier) so quickly.”
USPS spokesman Harry Spratlin said Nusz will be recommended for a letter of commendation from U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe for “going above and beyond the call of duty.”
“We train our employees very carefully … to have a heightened awareness while they’re out on the street,” Spratlin said. “I’ve been telling everyone I can about (Nusz). He is aware and looking out for his customers.”
[…] Although Gauthier’s was the only check found, she said there could be more of her neighbors who were impacted by theft. She hopes her story will make them aware.
“The best advice I can give is don’t put any of your outgoing mail in your mailbox,” Gauthier said. “Go to the post office or hand it right to your mail carrier. Those are the only two things I trust now.”
COMMENTS: Never send checks from your mailbox! Take them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. By that same token, you need to be vigilant with incoming mail, which tons a ton of sensitive information thieves can use for identity theft. Use a high security locking mailbox to keep would-be identity thieves from stealing your incoming mail. The problem with mail theft is that most victims don’t even realize when it’s happened. In this case, thank goodness Mr. Nusz noticed something was amiss, so he could help prevent any real damage to the victims!
Oroville woman sentenced in mail theft and fraud case
Oroville Mercury Register – 11/9/11
(OROVILLE, CALIFORNIA) “An Oroville woman was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison Tuesday for bank fraud and possession of stolen mail.
Laura Lee Elizabeth Gregory, 28, will face three years of supervised release after serving the prison time, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.
According to court documents, Gregory and others staked out mailboxes in Sacramento County to steal items that allowed her to apply for credit cards she used to purchase goods and services.
More than 500 items of stolen mail in the names of more than 350 different people were found June 29, 2010, when a Sacramento residence was searched by federal agents.
[…] Gregory’s husband, Melvin Lee Gregory, 28, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty on July 19 to two counts of aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Mendez on Dec. 13.”
COMMENTS: The awful part is it probably took very little time for them to steal 500 mail items. It is so easy to steal mail, anyone who doesn’t have a security locking mailbox is vulnerable! Protect yourself with a high quality locked mailbox like the Mail Boss.
Man, woman accused of stealing mail in Gilbert neighborhood
The Arizona Republic – 11/8/11
(GILBERT, ARIZONA) “Gilbert police arrested a man and a woman Monday on charges they were stealing mail from a neighborhood near Elliot and Higley roads, police said.
A witness noticed a woman taking mail and called police at about 11 p.m., according to police spokesman Sgt. Bill Balafas.
When police arrived, officers found Sheri Renee Young, 31, of Chandler, with mail from neighborhood mailboxes. Police also found Justin Tyme Jackson, 30 of Mesa, in a nearby vehicle that had a large pile of mail in it, Balafas said.
Jackson had a warrant for his arrest from the Maricopa County Superior Court for identity theft and was subsequently arrested, Balafas said. Both Young and Jackson were in possession of personal and business checks from different victims, police said.
Police also found Young in possession of meth. […]”
COMMENTS: These are not first time offenders. In fact, they’ve been convicted before for the same crimes. Methamphetamine is a driving factor for the epidemic of mail-identity theft, and these two will be back on the streets stealing mail and identities in no time. The problem is widespread, and not going away any time soon. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, and never send sensitive mail (checks, bill payments) from an unlocked mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure!
Scam watch: Credit cards, weight-loss supplement, chimney sweeps
Los Angeles Times – 11/6/11
(COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA) “Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.
Stolen credit cards -– A Costa Mesa man has been convicted of identity theft and other federal crimes related to the theft of credit cards from Vietnamese immigrants living in Southern California. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Hung Van Tieu, 62, of conspiracy, credit card fraud and identity theft. The charges carry a sentence of two to 32 years in federal prison. Tieu was part of a team of con men who called credit card companies in 2010 and 2011, impersonated customers and asked for new cards to be mailed to the address on file. The team intercepted the cards from the mail and used them to run up more than $100,000 in purchases of luxury goods, including Rolex watches, and to withdraw thousands of dollars in Las Vegas casinos, including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand hotels. […]”
COMMENTS: 12 million Americans were victims of ID theft in 2010, and only 1/3 of victims knew how their information was stolen. Of the people who knew how their info was taken, the MAJORITY indicate low-tech methods including stolen wallets/purses, stolen trash, and stolen mail. In fact, MAIL THEFT is one of the easiest and most common ways crooks obtain your sensitive information for ID theft. Most people never realize when their mail has been stolen as we do not know what is going to come in the mail from day to day. People only realize their mail has been stolen if the thief leaves traces (open mailbox, mail discarded on the ground, etc.) or when the criminal is caught with stolen mail, or using stolen mail fraudulently.
To protect yourself from this fast growing problem, and yes mail theft is rampant in California, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail. 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. And of course, shred or otherwise destroy sensitive mail before discarding it to thwart dumpster divers. But remember, most of what you’re shredding comes in the mail, and you must protect that sensitive information at its source: the mailbox!
Woodbury PD Blotter: Letter Larceny
Woodbury Blotter – 11/5/11
(WOODBURY, MN) “[…] Oct. 27 […] A resident at the 1400 block of Donegal Drive called police to report that several mailboxes in the area had mail stolen from them during the past week. […]
Oct. 28 […] A resident at the 8300 block of Emerald Lane called police to report that mail had been stolen from homes in the area. […]
Oct. 31 A resident at the 1900 block of Jewel Drive called police to report that a check for $307 was stolen from her mailbox. […]”
COMMENTS: Frattallone’s Ace Hardware in Woodbury carries high security locking mailboxes that will protect against mail-identity theft. Stolen mail is a fast growing problem, so preventative measures are a good idea to protect against ID theft!
Stockton woman guilty of fraud
The Record – 11/5/11
(SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA) “A 40-year-old Stockton woman on Friday pleaded guilty to a number of charges related to credit card fraud in a federal court.
Prosecutors say Alisha Grim and a co-defendant were seen in June pulling over in a van alongside mailboxes and stealing mail.
Police officers found hundreds of stolen mail items and evidence that the defendants were profiling people for identity theft.
Grim admitted to possessing at least five fraudulent IDs and at least 15 devices to check bank account and credit card numbers.
She will be sentenced Jan. 20, facing a possible maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Her co-defendant, 24-year-old Courtney L. Williams, also of Stockton, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, failure to appear, and possession of stolen U.S. Mail.
A third defendant, 33-year-old Frank Antwoine Johnson, also of Stockton, pleaded guilty to possession of stolen U.S. Mail, credit card fraud, and unauthorized possession of identification documents.”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the easiest and most common ways thieves obtain your personal sensitive information for identity theft. Residents should take defensive measures: use a high security locking mailbox that can’t be easily pried open or fished to protect against theft of incoming mail. Never send sensitive mail from an unlocked mailbox. Use online bill pay – it’s more secure!