Mail Theft Monday – 10/18/10

Police seek help identifying suspects
Great Falls Tribune – 10/16/10

(GREAT FALLS, MONTANA) “Police are looking for help in identifying two suspects in a theft and forgery case involving a stolen box of checks belonging to an elderly victim on a fixed income.

Detective Doug Mahlum of the Great Falls Police Department said the two suspects have been spotted on surveillance cameras from many stores around town using the forged checks.

Mahlum said a box of checks was stolen from a man living in an apartment complex at 121 5th St. N. in the first part of September. The checks were delivered to the victim by mail, but were placed in the open because the box couldn’t fit in the man’s mail slot. […]”

COMMENTS: When thieves find a box of checks in a mailbox, it’s like hitting a jackpot! Of course, they can find other useful information in your mailbox on a daily basis, like bank account statements, utility bills, credit card offers and more. Because mailboxes are a prime target for identity thieves, it is of the utmost importance to use a high security locking mailbox. Ideally, you want a secure mailbox made of quality materials, not plastic or thin gauge metal. Also, it should be able to withstand prying attempts. Last, it should be big enough to accept a box of checks, but not so large as to accept fishing hands. The Mail Boss is a good choice of security mailbox, and is available in Great Falls at your local ProBuild, Ace Hardware or True Value.

Police: Woman stole checks from mailboxes
KY Post – 10/15/10

(SPRINGDALE, OHIO) “Springdale police are asking the public for help finding a woman wanted for stealing checks and depositing them into a fake account.

Police said the woman is stealing outgoing mail from mailboxes that contain checks written to pay bills. The woman then alters the checks and deposits them into an account under a fictitious name.

The total dollar amount stolen from the victims at this point is about $5,000, police said. […]”

COMMENTS: Thieves often target outgoing mail to steal bill payments because they can wash the Payee and then cash the check fraudulently. However, they also target incoming mail to steal sensitive information that can be used for identity theft. Check fraud is common, and is a hassle to address, but identity theft is a nightmare, requiring hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to rectify. To prevent mail-identity theft, use a high security locking mailbox to secure incoming mail, and use online bill pay to prevent theft of checks in outgoing mail. And as always, shred sensitive documents (which primarily come in your curbside mailbox) to thwart dumpster divers.

Man arrested in alleged Salt Lake mail theft
Deseret News – 10/15/10

(SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH) “A man police say was stealing mail in downtown Salt Lake City was arrested following a short chase Friday.

About 12:30 p.m., a Salt Lake officer in the right place at the right time, spotted a man and woman taking mail out of mailboxes near 900 East and 800 South, said Salt Lake police detective Dennis McGowan.

As the officer approached the couple, the woman stayed but the man ran off across the parking lot of a Smith’s grocery store, McGowan said. Backup officers were called to surround the area and arrested a 36-year-old man about 10 minutes later. The female was not arrested.”

COMMENTS: I wonder why the female was not arrested if both were stealing mail? Just because she was “cooperative”? This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Regardless, mail theft is one of the primary ways criminals obtain mail for identity theft. With all of the highly sensitive documents that come in the mailboxes, homeowners should use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to keep personal information out of the hands of would-be identity thieves.

A mailbox that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver is an essential component of comprehensive identity theft prevention. In addition, do not send sensitive mail from unsecured mailboxes, and always shred personal documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them.

Ex-con jailed for stealing mail dropped off at post offices throughout Houston
Houston Examiner – 10/14/10

(HOUSTON, TEXAS) “All over Houston, people were mailing their checks to pay bills and those checks were being stolen from the mailboxes.

Not only would unsuspecting victims find out the bills they were trying to pay were delinquent, but their checks were then deposited into an ex-con’s account.

US Postal inspectors say mailboxes were sometimes nearly picked clean overnight, with nearly every letter being swiped before postal workers could empty the boxes in the morning. Then, the checks people were mailing to pay their bills would have the “Pay To” line changed, with a new name being filled in. The checks would then be deposited into the convicted felon’s account.

Rhett Daniel Stringer, 31, is locked up at the Houston Federal Detention Center, scheduled to face a US Magistrate judge today for arraignment. He’s charged with felony Possession of Stolen Mail. […]”

COMMENTS: Increasingly, identity thieves are stealing mail to obtain checks, bank statements and other sensitive information. To prevent mail-identity theft, (1) use a high securtiy locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to protect incoming mail; (2) never send checks in the mail – use online bill pay instead; and (3) always shred sensitive documents before discarding them.

Boiseans urged to be careful with their mail
KTVB – 10/12/10

(BOISE, IDAHO) “Boise residents are being urged to take extra precautions with their mail.

Boise Police issued the warning in the wake of a series of mailbox thefts and vandalism.

Several people living in the neighborhood around Alpine and Orchard streets have told police that their mailboxes were either stolen or vandalized last weekend.  The crimes likely occurred Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

Some of the victims say they had outgoing mail in their boxes when the boxes were stolen. Police have not made any arrests in this case. […]

To protect your money and your identity, police advise you to avoid putting checks or gift cards in your home mailbox.  Instead, take it to a secure post office mail drop.

Boise Police Crime Prevention experts have produced a new video to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.”

COMMENTS: Studies indicate that the majority of identity theft is perpetuated via old-fashioned methods: stolen wallets/purses, mail and trash. To avoid become a victim of identity theft, there are 3 simple steps to take:

  1. Use a high security locking mailbox to secure incoming mail from thieves.
  2. Never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Bring it directly to the post office (not a blue USPS box, which thieves are increasingly targeting) or use online bill pay – it’s more secure.
  3. Always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them.

These easy steps will greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Mailboxes and Mail Stolen in Boise Neighborhood
FOX 12 – 10/12/10

(BOISE, IDAHO) “Boise police are trying to find who stole and vandalized mailboxes in a neighborhood over the weekend.

Most reports came in early morning on Sunday, Oct. 10, on Alpine Street near Orchard in Boise.  Some appeared to be beaten, while other mailboxes were completely ripped out of the ground.

Some victims say they had outgoing mail that was also stolen. Police won’t know the vandals’ motives until they’re caught, but the crimes raise a bigger issue — protecting your identity.

“Any time you’re mailing checks that you’re paying you bills with, if you’re sending birthday cards or Christmas cards to somebody that includes cash or a gift card, we always suggest that you drop that in a postal drop box,” said Curt Crum with Boise Police Department.

The same goes if you’re ordering new checks from your bank – don’t have them sent to your home mailbox.  If you have information about the incidents, please call Crime Stoppers at 343-COPS (2677).”

COMMENTS: This is not just the destructive act of a bunch of teenage mailbox vandals. These are criminals prowling for your personal documents, and they’re not just after checks from your outgoing mail, either!

Yes, checks offer a quick opportunity for cash, but mail thieves (often methamphetamine addicts) also steal mail to obtain sensitive information for identity theft! In fact, the majority of ID theft (the fastest growing crime in the country) is perpetuated via low-tech methods: stolen wallets/purses, mail and trash. In your mailbox, thieves can find a wealth of sensitive information including bank account statements, credit card offers, social security numbers and more!

To secure your mail and protect your identity, use a high security locking mailbox like the MAIL BOSS that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. You can find the Mail Boss in Boise at Fred Meyer on Overland Rd, Franklin Rd, or Federal Way.

Annapolis resident’s mail stolen and check illegally cashed
ABC 2 – 10/11/10

(ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND) “Annapolis Police are investigating a resident’s claim that his mail was stolen for the first week of October and a check he had been waiting for was cashed by the mail thief.

The victim, who lives on the 100 block of Merryman Court, told police that his mail was taken between October 1st and 8th, and that during that time, he was expecting a check.

The victim investigated and found that the check had been sent to his home and that it had been cashed by someone else.

Police are still investigating, but have no suspects at this time.”

COMMENTS: The fact that things like checks (and bills and bank statements and explanation of benefits…) come in the mail should be reason enough for us to take precaution with our mailbox – namely, use a high security locking mailbox to prevent mail-identity theft. When looking for a locking mailbox, choose one that is made of high-quality materials like heavy-gauge steel (not thin gauge metal or plastic) and cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. A high quality locking mailbox is the first and best defense against mail identity theft.

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