Mail Theft Monday – 11/29/10

Broomfield Enterprise police report – Nov. 28
Broomfield Enterprise – 11/27/10

(BROOMFIELD, COLORADO) “[…] Nov. 19 […] Mail was stolen from a business in the 6900 block of West 117th Avenue. Loss, unknown. […]”

COMMENTS: It is important to remember that thieves target business mailboxes just as they target residential mailboxes. Business should use high security locking mailboxes to secure their sensitive incoming mail, and as with residences, businesses should refrain from sending sensitive documents or checks from their unsecured mailbox. A good option for businesses is the Mail Boss Package Master because it has space for legal sized documents in outgoing mail, and has a higher capacity to securely store incoming mail and packages, in comparison with the Mail Boss.

Check Your Mail Before Thieves Do
Police, in their latest quarterly newsletter, urge residents to keep a watchful eye out for their mail. Thieves can steal your checks and other personal information.
San Ramon Patch – 11/27/10

(SAN RAMON, CALIFORNIA) “Keep an eye out for mail thieves this season, San Ramon police warn.

Mail-snatchers hit the streets in groups, often dropping off people in different neighborhoods to take from mailboxes with the red flags up, according to Crime Prevention Specialist Darlene Kittredge, who authors the police department’s quarterly newsletter.

In fact, it wasn’t long ago that San Ramon police made some arrests in connection with mail theft and identity theft. What led to those September arrests was a San Ramon resident calling the police with a license plate number of someone seen suspiciously looking into several mailboxes.

Though home mailboxes are vulnerable, businesses need to keep a wary eye out, too, Kittredge adds. Especially the ones that leave outgoing mail on the front desk for the mail carrier. If a thief comes in early enough, they could pick it up before the postal worker.

The goal for these types of criminals is to find a check, Kittredge said. Those checks can then be “washed” with acid to change the dollar amount and the payee.

Fraudsters can also use your stolen signature to steal your identity and apply for credit cards, among other things, under your name.

So how to prevent this?

“Be safe and secure by dropping off all outgoing mail in a U.S. mailbox or at a U.S. Post Office,” Kittredge writes. “On the incoming side, get your mail out of your mailbox as soon as possible.”

If you know what time the mail usually comes, and if you have the chance to get home around that time, take it out before anyone else gets a chance to, said Kittredge. If you plan on taking a trip, ask the post office to hold your mail until you get back. Or, have a trustworthy neighbor pick it up daily.

There’s always the option of getting a locking mailbox, or buying an attachment to lock up your existing one.

So if your monthly bills seem to be late, don’t assume they got lost in the mail, contact the sender to find out exactly when the mail was sent. That’s especially important for bank, credit card and brokerage mail, according to police.

Online shopping – which many of us turn to for the holidays – presents another danger.

Thieves often target homes with a package left on the front porch. That package may contain credit card, bank and billing information – possibly enough for a criminal to steal someone’s identity, police say.

“If you have a package that is to be delivered and you know you will not be
home, ask a neighbor to keep an eye out for it or pick it up for you,” Kittredge writes. “Or have it delivered to that neighbors house that is home, with their permission of course.”

Or, if you don’t have a neighbor, or one you trust enough with your belongings, ask the post office to hold it for you.”

COMMENTS: The police seem to indicate that check theft from outgoing mail is the real problem, and mention theft of incoming mail only as an aftermath. In reality, though, if a thief steals a check they can alter it and use it fraudulently. Usually this is quite difficult to deal with, but it can be reconciled without too much of a hassle.

When a thief targets your incoming mail, on the other hand, they can find a wealth of sensitive information they can aggregate and use for full-blown identity theft, which can take thousands of dollars and years to reconcile. In your mailbox, thieves can find bank account statements, preapproved credit card offers, driver’s licenses, courtesy checks, medical statements, utility bills and more. Thieves are so brazen they even follow (or impersonate) the postal carriers to steal your mail!

To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to protect your incoming mail from would-be identity thieves. When possible, use online bill pay rather than sending checks in the mail. And always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them.

Postal Service Investigates Mail Thefts
MY FOX Atlanta – 11/24/10

(ATLANTA, GEORGIA) “There was a warning Wednesday night for U.S. Postal Service customers. Authorities said crooks are using unusual tactics to steal personal information from mailboxes.

Authorities said crooks have been placing a sticky substance on the inside of mailboxes at Embry Hills. The crooks then reach inside the mailboxes to steal envelopes containing personal information.

A postal service spokesman says customers should pay close attention to the last pickup time of the day so their mail isn’t sitting in the mailbox overnight.

Inspectors say they’re monitoring the Embry Hills mailboxes to see when and how they’re being tampered with.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is an ongoing problem in Atlanta. Thieves are targeting incoming and outgoing mail at residential and cluster boxes alike. They are looking for sensitive information to use for check forgery and/or identity theft, and nowhere is safe.

To protect yourself – (1) use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open, (2) never send mail from an unsecured mailbox – take checks to the post office or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure, and (3) always shred sensitive documents before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers, but remember most of what you shred comes in your mailbox!

Blotter: Mail tampering incidents reported in Los Gatos
Los Gatos Weekly Times – 11/22/10

(LOS GATOS, CALIFORNIA) […] “Mail tampering–On Nov. 15 at 11:42 a.m. on Shady Lane. A resident’s outgoing mail was stolen from the mailbox. […] Mail tampering–On Nov. 11 at 2:49 p.m. on Cerro Vista Drive. Mail was stolen from a mailbox. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft and mailbox tampering is a growing problem in the Los Gatos area. To stop mail-identity theft use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open. In Los Gatos you can find the Mail Boss at Rural Supply Ace Hardware on Santa Cruz Avenue, or Ace Los Gatos Hardware on Los Gatos Blvd.

Watch your mailbox: Police investigating information theft
Taylor Daily Press – 11/21/10

(TAYLOR, TEXAS) “Most of us don’t give our mailbox a second thought – we check it in the afternoon, put up the flag when we drop off outgoing mail and go about our normal lives. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of this lack of concern, and the Taylor Police Department is investigating a string of possible forgeries resulting from mail theft.

“We haven’t had a lot of people reporting it to us, but with the forgeries we’ve been working where people have taken information and committed forgery, we’re finding that it is coming out of people’s mailboxes,” said Assistant Chief of Police Dan Ramsey.

TPD detectives, along with a U.S. Postal Service investigator, are currently investigating at least four people who might be involved in what appears to be a mail theft problem cropping up in Taylor within the last four to five months. Both residential and business postal customers have been affected, said Ramsey, and the problem is widespread beyond Taylor.

“It goes back to identity theft. It can happen anywhere,” Ramsey said. “(Criminals) take information and utilize that information to make checks and forge people’s names. It’s happening all over – not just in Taylor; it’s nationwide.”

Taylor victims don’t appear to be deliberately targeted, he said, but rather chosen based on opportunity. The theft can happen with traditional single mailboxes at the end of a driveway or with cluster boxes accidentally left unlocked.

“These people just randomly go to a mailbox,” Ramsey said. “It’s not targeted towards anyone; it’s whatever is accessible to them. It’s all over; it’s not any particular place.”

The ubiquitous nature of the problem might be attributed to the tough economic climate leaving many people without a legitimate way to earn money, he added. […]

There are multiple ways that postal customers can be proactive in protecting their information.

“People have got to be aware and secure their mail because there are people out there who will take advantage of anyone,” Ramsey said. “If you’re going to be out of town for a while, by all means get your mail stopped. Don’t let it keep coming to your house and pile up. That just alerts somebody to say, ‘Okay I can go get this person’s mail,’ and (they will) take what they want.”

[…] Also, make sure to take steps in your daily habits to protect yourself.

“Check your mail regularly and don’t put payment checks in the mail the night before,” said the detective investigating some of the forgery cases that might be involved.

“It’s safer to drop (your mail) off at the post office or meet the postman and hand it to him personally,” added Ramsey. “People that do this look for people to take advantage of. If you make it easy for them, they’re going to take advantage of you.”

If you’re concerned that your mail is being stolen, contact the post office at (512) 352-3162. If you think that a crime of identity theft has been committed with your information, contact the police department at (512) 352-5551.”

COMMENTS: This makes some good points, but omits the most obvious and best defense against mail identity theft: a high security locking mailbox. Incoming mail contains a wealth of personal information that can be used for identity theft, including bank statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks and more. No one can retrieve their mail promptly every day, and many thieves are so brazen they even follow the postal carriers! To prevent mail theft, use a high quality secure mailbox that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver, so that your mail is safe from would-be identity thieves until you retrieve it with a key, whether you’re busy cooking supper or out of the country!

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