More mail theft covered in yet another #MailTheftMonday –
This week were covering crimes across our country, including identity theft and check forgery, porch pirates going rampant for holiday packages, and of course mail theft and break-ins. Coast to coast, no one is safe from mail thieves and crooks – unless they are protected by MailBoss!
by Tim McNicholas, CBS Chicago – 12/02/21 – Chicago, IL
Park Ridge was not the only suburb where a thief broke open blue mailboxes a few weeks ago. CBS 2 discovered it also happened in three other suburbs—from the south to the north—all over the course of a few days. Morning Insider Tim McNicholas shows us how it starts as theft and turns into fraud.
The blue boxes outside the Park Ridge post office are still out of service, nearly a month after someone pried them open in the night and stole everything inside, including the $500 check Wilbur Mills mailed to his insurance company. “I’m trying to figure out who’s accountable,” Mills said. A copy of the check his bank sent him shows it was not for $500, but $2,000; and not to an insurer but to someone named Lionel Buckley. “They redid the addressee, the date, the amount. In fact, there wasn’t anything on the check that wasn’t altered,” Mills said. Now Mills joins an unfortunate but growing club that we’ve reported on for months; people who became fraud victims after mailing checks in Park Ridge.
Court records show someone broke into the mailboxes at that post office seven times in the last seven months. “And that’s what concerns me, the same lightning striking several times, several times at the same place,” Mills said. It turns out, when someone pried open the mail boxes in Park Ridge, a few weeks ago, lightning struck in several places.
CBS 2 has confirmed with police that someone forced open blue boxes not just in Park Ridge–but in Palos Park, Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights; all over the course of about eight days in early November. “This is a chronic problem,” said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. She encouraged victims to reach out to her office as well as U.S. Postal Inspectors. “Clearly this needs to be stepped up. We don’t want it to become kind of a contagious fraudulent activity. And I think the Postal Service has to look out for that,” Schakowsky said. Schakowsky also represents Lincolnwood, where a recent CBS 2 report revealed 18 people had checks altered after mailing them in the past year…
As for Mills, he said he doesn’t know anyone named Lionel Buckley, the name on the altered check. Now Mills is paying more bills electronically, and he said he wouldn’t use the blue boxes at the Park Ridge post office even if he could. No word if any fraud occurred yet in Prospect Heights or Mount Prospect, but Palos Park police confirmed they are taking reports from people who had checks stolen and washed.
COMMENTS: Theft from blue boxes and check forgery, they seem to go hand in hand. While we wish that those blue drop boxes at post offices were more secure, we also highly encourage individuals to drop off important mail at their local post office directly. Rep. Jan Schakowsky is right that this is a chronic problem. Mail and identity theft have been steadily growing over the past 2 decades, and it seems that there is no end in sight.
by Justin Kies, WOWT – 11/30/21 – Omaha, NB
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is seeking public assistance in identifying a female suspect involved in multiple cases of mail theft and check forgery.
DCSO officials say the theft and forgery have resulted in victim losses of more than $10,000.
Law enforcement believes she is involved in similar offenses in both Nebraska and Iowa. They say she was observed driving a grey car in November.
Anyone with information about the identity or whereabouts of this individual is urged to call the DCSO tip line at 402-444-6000.
COMMENTS: This suspect seems to have this process pretty nailed down, at least until they were caught. You’d think as a criminal that you might do a bit of a better job ‘blending in’, but with the pink hair and gold chain, she is certainly easy to identify.
It’s more than likely that she is stealing checks and mail articles from mailboxes, and then washing them to cash in her name. Be sure to secure your mail with a locking security mailbox by MailBoss.
by WEST SEATTLE BLOG – 12/02/2021 – West Seattle, WA
Three reports spanning four incidents in West Seattle Crime Watch:
MAIL THEFT: Thanks to Matthew on Puget Ridge for the tip on this, after a neighborhood-group post reporting a letter carrier had been robbed. We talked today with a U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson, who said the incident earlier this week was not a robbery – no force was used – but did confirm that some mail was stolen from a carrier’s truck. She said the USPS would be notifying the customers whose mail was taken,
COMMENTS: We don’t often hear of mail theft directly from the USPS mail trucks, as the carriers are usually in the vehicle. That must have been a scary situation for the driver, as you never know when someone is capable of committing acts of violence or further crimes to get what they want. The thief had to be pretty bold to steal directly from a mail truck. We are glad to hear that the carrier is unharmed.
by Grant Lancaster, ArkansasOnline – 12/03/21 – Alexander, AR
An Alexander woman faces felony charges after North Little Rock police say they caught her Tuesday with mail stolen from mailboxes at various apartment complexes, according to an arrest report.
An officer investigating break-ins at a large number of mailboxes at the Lexington Park apartment complex was shown video of a woman believed to be the culprit. The officer decided to check nearby apartments and encountered Meredith Newton, 40, near the mail room at the Fountaine Bleau apartments. Newton matched the woman in the video, and her vehicle also matched the one seen in the video, police said.
About 15 mailboxes at the complex had been recently pried open, a search of the room and a conversation with the complex manager determined. Newton was detained, and a search of her car turned up drug paraphernalia, identification and phone belonging to Newton, two pry bars and a large quantity of mail that was not addressed to Newton, including mail addressed to Lexington Park apartments, police said. Newton complained of chest pain and thought she might be having a heart attack, so she was taken to an area hospital for screening before being transferred to the Pulaski County jail.
COMMENTS: Apartment complexes and communities with homes very close together create the perfect scenario for thieves looking to steal mail. With so many delivery points close together, the thieves think that they can get in, get what they came for and get out quick. However, it seems in this case that the crook decided to stay around, or perhaps was located locally. The police did their job and tracked down the suspect, and we are always glad to see another mail thief brought to justice – especially since mail theft often goes unchecked.
Most mailboxes can be easily violated with simple tools, or even bare hands! Just because your mailbox has a lock, does not make it secure. For real security at a great value, choose MailBoss.
by Don Dare, WATE ABC – 11/30/21 – Knoxville, TN
With the holiday season upon us and with online shopping on the rise, many consumers are worried about their deliveries being stolen by porch pirates. Now, if the thieves are caught and convicted, their petty theft crime may turn out to be inconvenient. Tennessee recently enacted a tougher law for those caught stealing mail or packages.
The new mail theft law commonly referred to as the “Porch pirate law”, went into effect on July 1, 2021. It covers the theft of all classes of mail and it includes packages, not only delivered by the Postal Service, but also UPS, DHL, or FedEx. “It defined mail as not only what someone knows to be from the US Postal Service, but it defined it as any package, any letter that was delivered to your address and not yet collected by you,” said Wendy Boles, US Postal Inspector.
Under the new amended act, the first offense of stealing mail is a misdemeanor. But if caught and convicted a second time, then you could go to jail for up to a year. “The thing about this amendment that I like it does not depend on the value of the item taken. So before the theft of property, it was over a thousand dollars that made it a felony. Now, in regards to this new statute, the second offense of mail theft is a class E felony,” said Boles.
In 2020, US Postal Service received over 20,000 reports of mail theft. There were an additional 95,000 reports of mail not received. A significant portion of those, inspectors believe was actually theft. Boles has some tips to prevent your packages from being stolen. “Treat your packages and mail the same. Try to collect it promptly. If you are not going to be home have a neighbor take in for you. If you are going to be on vacation if you foresee in the future, put your mail on hold. Contact the postal service and put your mail on hold.”
One of the most exciting aspects of the digital age is that not only can you buy almost anything you want online, but you can also track it online. In addition, if you shop on an eCommerce site, like Amazon, Walmart, or Home Depot, you’ll receive an email when your item is shipped, and when it’s about to arrive at your home. All of this helps cut down the possibility of someone stealing a package from your porch.
COMMENTS: New laws against mail and package theft will help to prosecute mail thieves when they are caught, and therefore they may help deter would-be mail thieves as the consequences are more secure. However, mail and package theft crimes often go unsolved, even with the aid of video or camera evidence.
A pair of US identity thieves who targeted elderly people using compromised information bought through dark web cybercrime forums have been sent to prison. Durrell Tyler, 29, and DeShawn Johnson, 30, both from Atlanta, Georgia, used stolen identities to fraudulently open accounts with credit card companies and various retailers. The duo changed the phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addressed associated with their victims to locations under their control in order to impersonate victims in representations with creditors. The same tactic meant that victims failed to receive notifications about applications for fraudulent lines of credit.
The scam was exposed to the authorities after Tyler attempted to steal the identities of a Georgia couple who had been murdered, as detailed in a US Department of Justice statement on the case. This misstep by the cybercriminals shone a spotlight on one strand of the scam and allowed investigators to identify multiple homes in the Atlanta area used by Tyler and Johnson to further their illicit campaign. Ransomware groups increasingly using data leak threats to pile pressure on victims.
Subsequent police raids on these residences uncovered mail addressed to the pair’s victims, fraudulent driver’s licenses in the name of elderly victims with Tyler’s picture, and cache of personal information for dozens of victims listed in phones, email accounts, and a handwritten notebook.
Investigators subsequently linked both Tyler and Johnson for “more than $130,000 in actual and intended loss suffered by more than 75 victims” across the US. Some of those targeted were repeat victims of identity theft. Both men were charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft and pleaded guilty before appearing before US District Judge Steve Jones for sentencing earlier this week. Tyler was sentenced to three years, 10 months in prison for access device fraud, to be followed by two consecutive years imprisonment for aggravated identity theft. He was further sentenced to three years’ probation upon release and ordered to pay $108,000 in restitution to his victims. Johnson was sentenced to one year, six months in prison for access device fraud, to be followed by two consecutive years imprisonment for aggravated identity theft. Upon his release, Johnson will be kept on probation for three years and required to pay $66,000 in restitution.
COMMENTS: We are relieved to see these two thieves put to justice. Think about the damage that these thieves had on the individuals involved. Some of the victims even had their identity assumed/ used for forgery multiple times! How dissapointing and sad it is that even in death, one cannot escape the crimes of mail and identity theft. Luckily these two crooks will serve their time and pay their restitution, and that is two less thieves out on the streets to be tampering with peoples’ lives.
by Megan Winslow, Los Altos Town Crier – 11/30/21 – Los Altos, CA
As the winter holidays creep ever closer, law enforcement agencies are anticipating an inevitable increase in a corresponding seasonal occurrence: mail-related crime. The most prominent subcategories noted locally are mail theft and package theft, according to a recent Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office briefing to the public. “Just make sure you’re doing everything you can to try to mitigate those kinds of theft, because they’re coming,” Capt. Rich Urena said during his monthly presentation to Los Altos Hills residents. “They’re coming, and we don’t want to see property stolen from residents.”
Consumers, of course, are ramping up gift purchasing and shipping, presenting criminals with more opportunities for pilfering freshly delivered packages. Envelopes sent to mailboxes may include gift cards or even cash, but the objective behind mail snatching is otherwise not so straightforward. “The crooks are not stealing your mail because they want to know your business,” said Lt. Neil Valenzuela of the Sheriff’s Office. “They want to know your information. They want to open up credit card accounts in your name. They want to go on a free shopping spree at your expense.”
Urena and Valenzuela are former detectives who investigated cases of identity theft, and both men frequently encountered piles of stolen mail when making arrests. They strongly encourage residents to invest in locking mailboxes, which brick-and-mortar and online retailers offer at a range of prices, from approximately $50 for a simple wall-mounted model to more than $1,600 for versions embedded in stucco.
“What we do know is the crooks are targeting those mailboxes that are easy to open,” Urena said. “They actually prefer the ones where they don’t even have to get out of the car. They just drive right up, and they just open your mailbox, stick their hand in there, take those items and drive away.”
Not even secured mailboxes are fail-safe solutions; representatives from both the Los Altos and Mountain View police departments noted a rise in reports of breached ones. In Los Altos, at least, the trend involves using a master key to open clusters of boxes at multi-unit complexes. “We have identified several suspects in these cases, but the investigations are ongoing,” Det. Sgt. Cameron Shearer wrote in an email sent to the Town Crier.
COMMENTS: We do tend to see a seasonal increase in reports/ complaints of mail theft as well. Luckily for us, they are not from our boxes but rather from an influx of residents across the U.S. who have either heard about our product from their neighbor, or seen first hand that MailBoss means business when it comes to attempts on their contents.
The detectives are right. Thieves prefer to drive up to your mailbox, reach their hand out the window (maybe even with a screwdriver or short pry-bar in hand, pop the lock and grab the contents. Then, to a normal passerby it might look like they are just another resident collecting their mail. I have even seen attempts like these done in broad daylight, but more usually I have seen mail theft attempts occur during the early hours of the morning or very late at night. A secure, locking and built-tough mailbox, like a MailBoss curbside unit will do a great job at resisting these types of attempts, and keeping your mail secure.
by Pepper Fisher, RadioPacific, Inc – 12/01/21 – Port Angeles, WA
The Port Angeles Police Department is actively investigating numerous cases of mail theft, many of which appear to have been perpetrated by the same person. Police are circulating a grainy security camera photo taken at night of a suspect who they believe operates late in the evening and early morning hours, targets mailboxes without locks and steals packages left on front porches. He/she drives what’s described as a smaller vehicle with a loud muffler and has been seen on several video clips wearing rain gear and a face covering.
They’re seeking the public’s help for information on the suspect or the vehicle. They’d like folks to call PenCom at (360) 452-4545 and ask to speak to Officer Mike Johnson, or an on-duty officer if Officer Johnson is not available, if you have any information.
On the other hand, if you see someone who appears to be tampering with mailboxes or a suspect criminally trespassing onto residential porches, call 9-1-1.
COMMENTS: This mail thief is close to home for us (Washington State), and is apparently going rampant on the peninsula. Not only do they steal from mailboxes, they also pirate porches for packages! With more hours of darkness each day here, it must get easier to steal during the winter time as well. We recommend to all residents in that area to purchase and install a locking security mailbox. It will not only protect your mail from theft at the source – it will also free up valuable time for your local police department.
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!