More mail theft covered in yet another #MailTheftMonday –
This week were covering crimes across our country, including the theft and tampering of mail from within the US Postal System, holiday shopping season package theft, identity theft and check fraud. Coast to coast, no one is safe from mail theft – unless they have a MailBoss!
More than 12 billion letters and packages are expected to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service this holiday season, but not all of them will arrive as expected. Our CBS46 investigation turned up a lot of mail theft complaints involving stolen gift cards, opened packages and more. And while the penalty for mail theft is a felony offense, we uncovered the thieves are rarely caught. Canton watch collector, Lance Soncrant, buys a lot of his watches online. “There was a listing I found. I liked it. We went back and forth, came up with a price from the person, and I purchased it,” said Soncrant. The watch was being sent ‘priority’ so Soncrant could track the shipment and he was excited when he saw it arrive on his front porch. That changed quickly when he lifted the box. “It was basically opened from the bottom, and the watch was missing,” said Soncrant. “Until now, never once did I ever think that I would not receive something that I spent my hard earned money on.”
Soncrant is one of nearly 200 people who commented on this Nextdoor post in the Alpharetta – Milton neighborhood group. Andrew said, “my son received a birthday card in the mail today…it was opened and the gift card gone.” While Sheila said, “I had checks stolen from my mailbox.” CBS46 Investigates took their comments directly to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the agency that handles crimes that involve the postal system, and a spokesperson told us there were “no open investigations” regarding the information we provided, adding that they’re quote, “committed to identifying those responsible for mail theft and related activity.”
The charge for stealing mail is a felony that can carry up to five years in prison and a $250,000 dollar fine. But we found these thefts are rarely investigated. Through a public records request, CBS46 Investigates was able to obtain data of mail theft complaints. Of the 299,020 complaints the U.S. Postal Inspection Service received throughout the pandemic, less than zero-point-five-percent of them or 1,090 resulted in investigations. Of the 55,274 complaints the U.S. Office of Inspector General received from January 2020 through October 2021, roughly two-percent or 1,037 of them resulted in investigations.
COMMENTS: As always, in the case that mail goes missing we recommend filing a report with the United States Postal Inspection Service. You can file a complaint here: www.uspis.gov or call 1-877-876-2455 to file a report over the phone. However, unless your can be sure that your mail is secure at the delivery point, then there is little proof that the mail was stolen or tampered with from within the US Postal Service system. Installing a secure curbside or wall-mount delivery mailbox is the best way to ensure that your mail is safe from being tampered with once delivered.
While there is not much that the everyday mail recipient can do to prevent mail theft and tampering within the postal system, using a security locking mailbox by MailBoss can help give peace of mind and prevent mail theft at the delivery point.
by Alix Martichoux, Nexstar Media Wire – 11/15/2021 – San Francisco, CA
Now that holiday shopping is practically synonymous with online shopping, more packages will be delivered to homes around the country in the coming weeks. And more packages means more opportunities for package theft.
Analysis of FBI crime data from 2019 conducted by CCTV Camera World found which states have the highest rates of larceny theft per capita. The FBI doesn’t track package theft specifically, but categorizes it as a type of larceny (defined as stealing someone else’s property).
The states with the most reported larceny thefts per capita were: Louisiana, South Carolina, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Arkansas, New Mexico, Tennessee, Washington and Alabama.
The states with the fewest larceny thefts per capita were: Massachusetts, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The area with the highest rate of larceny, the analysis found, was Washington, D.C., which makes sense given its density.
As package theft becomes a growing problem, some states have passed laws categorizing it as a crime with its own set of punishments. Earlier this year, California expanded its laws on mail theft to include packages delivered by private carriers, like Amazon. Stealing a package from someone’s porch could now get you a fine, jail time or both.
The law in Texas is even tougher. In 2019, the state made mail theft a felony. Those convicted of stealing from lots of people – between 20 and 50 – could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Comments: We all know mail theft is an epidemic, but we thought this article interesting because it highlights the areas of our country in which it is most and least prevalent. While mail theft itself is not independently reported on by the FBI, it is included in the greater reported category of larceny. We can reasonably conclude that areas with higher rates of larceny will also have increased rates of mail theft.
According to researches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, over 1.7 million packages are lost or stolen every day in the U.S. This results in over $25 million of lost goods and services every day. With losses so huge, it has become even more important than ever to secure packages and mail against thieves.
by Brooklyn Eagle Staff, Brooklyn Daily Eagle – 11/16/2021 – Brooklyn, NY
New York State Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced the conviction of Otis Barnes, 29, of Brooklyn, after he used the personal identifying information of a 90-year-old Staten Island resident to cash forged money orders at United States Postal Service offices throughout New York and New Jersey and defrauding a local bank to steal thousands of dollars.
Barnes pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class “E” felony, with a promised sentence of 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison.
“Fraud is never acceptable, but it is all the more heinous for an individual to steal the identity of an elderly man to line his own pocket,” James said. “Today’s conviction should serve as a message to all that we will not allow illegal schemes like this to go unchecked, and that we will hold those accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Mr. Barnes thought his low-tech money order scam would let him fly below the radar and avoid attention and detection of his crimes,” said USPS Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett. “He was wrong; and today’s plea is recognition by Mr. Barnes that Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners have no tolerance for this behavior and will aggressively investigate crime regardless of its scope or complexity.”
A joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the USPS Inspection Service revealed that, between March and July 2018, Barnes assumed the elderly victim’s identity on several occasions by presenting himself as the victim at several USPS offices and at a check cashing establishment.
As proof of his stolen identity, Barnes used a forged New York State Driver’s License that listed the elderly victim’s name, home address, and date of birth, but that contained Barnes’ photograph in order to cash several forged USPS money orders in the victim’s name.
Prior to cashing the forged money orders, Barnes used a mobile depositing app to deposit the same money orders — under his own name — into a bank account he controlled. Barnes then withdrew the money out of the account before the bank became aware of the fraud.
Because mobile deposit enables a customer to take a picture of a check or money order while maintaining possession of the check or money order itself, Barnes was able to then alter the money orders to substitute the name on the order and cash them a second time at local post offices.
COMMENTS: We are glad to see thieves and fraudsters get caught and prosecuted for their thefts. These types of actions cause frustration and are often financially ruining for the people whom get stolen from. Cases like this make it clear that the penalties for mail theft and check fraud are severe, and hopefully will help prevent future theft and crimes.
Hindering mail and identity theft at the source is an important way to impede these kinds of crimes. Receiving your mail and important documents at a secure location, such a locking curbside or residential mailbox will surely help to prevent mail and identity theft – and headaches.
by Matthew Seaver, Wink News – 11/15/2021 – Lee County, FL
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is warning of an increase in mail theft and wants to help make sure you know how to protect yourself.
In a fraud alert released by the sheriff’s office, they said that both residential and commercial mailboxes have been victims of theft. They are basing the information calls for service regarding mail theft.
LCSO says thieves are primarily on the lookout for checks for checkbooks that they can alter or forge. The sheriff’s office warns that in those cases it is the responsibility of the victim to notice the theft and file a request for repayment.
The sheriff’s office recommends several steps you can take to keep yourself safe from mail theft. They say that it is important to check your mailbox often to reduce the possibility of theft.
LCSO says the majority of mail theft occurs overnight.
They also recommended not letting mail pile up when you are away as it can make your home a target for burglary.
The sheriff’s office asks that you report suspicious activity immediately to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office by calling 239-477-1000.
COMMENTS: While we are always glad to see police office’s suggest tips for preventing mail theft, we find it odd that they did not mention the use of a secure, locking mailbox… or the use of the ‘Hold Mail Request’ by the USPS.
While you are away on vacation, be sure to authorize a hold mail order. You can authorize a hold mail for up to 30 days, free of charge. You can request a hold mail, here on the USPS website.
by Nicole Valinote, Daily Voice – 11/19/2021 – Fairfield County, CT
Police in a Fairfield County town have issued an alert after a number of residents reported that their outgoing mail was stolen and checks were cashed.
The Darien Police Department reported on Thursday, Nov. 18, that some residents have also reported that their stolen checks were altered to larger amounts, and money was withdrawn from their bank accounts.
The department recommended that residents who need to pay a bill or send someone a check drop the mail off directly in the post office, or pay the bill online.
Police also recommend that residents regularly check their bank statements.
The department also recommended people keep the following tips in mind:
– Use the blue USPS boxes for outgoing letters, or go directly into the post office.
– Remember to cancel mail delivery during vacations and out-of-town trips.
– Use online billing methods to take care of financial matters.
The Darien Police Department is working with the US Postal Inspectors to investigate the recent incidents.
Darien Police said residents who have had their mail stolen can contact the department at 203-662-5300.
COMMENTS: Outgoing mail theft is the easiest kind for mail thieves. For curbside and wall-mount mail service, there is no option currently for mail to be secure. That is, that there is no universal key or standard lock for curbside mailboxes.
Additionally, the locks that the USPS does use aren’t exactly inspiring or very secure anyways. That is why we always recommend either bringing your outgoing mail directly to the post office, or dropping it off at a USPS blue box drop point (but not leaving it overnight). The USPS drop points are usually very secure to leave mail in, because they are typically outside post offices, or in public areas where thieves are unlikely to proudly walk around with a crowbar in broad daylight.
by KLTV Digital Media Staff, KLTV – Tyler, Texas – 11/18/2021
A federal grand jury has indicted a Longview man accused of stealing checks from post office boxes, altering them, and then using them at Walmart stores.
According to federal court records, Daniel Ray Roach, 37, of Longview, was indicted on six counts of mail theft and one count of wire fraud on Nov. 17. Tool police officers arrested Roach on Oct. 20.
The text of the indictment states that between Aug. 1 and Oct. 20, Roach stole checks from envelopes that were placed into post office boxes for mailing.
He then altered the checks and passed them at Walmart stores in Gun Barrel City, Athens, and Canton to purchase merchandise, according to the indictment. Then he allegedly returned the items at Walmart for cash reimbursement.
COMMENTS: Another case of check fraud and forgery. While the usage of checks has definitely diminished due to the ease of online transactions in the past decade, many businesses and individuals still use checks on a daily basis to pay statements, bills or invoices. As we clearly see here, even USPS blue boxes are not safe from being broken into, but at least in this case the crook was caught and indicted for a federal charge.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this post. If you would like to inform yourself on more counts of mail theft across the country, take a peek at some of our other blog posts here. If you are ready to secure your mail, please check out our range of heavy-duty security mailboxes on our website. Let us know if you have any questions about our range of products. Tell us about your mail theft story in the comments below!