Happy MLK Day, everyone!
Still getting used to writing “2010” here. Still boggled at the crazy amounts of mail identity theft going on across the nation. And still advocating the use of a high-quality security locking mailbox (ahem: MailBoss) to protect your mail and your identity.
Just a reminder that we have the new Package Master Mail Boss locking mailbox in five lovely finishes. This model is quite a bit larger than the standard curbside Mail Boss security mail box; it can accept small packages such as prescriptions (often target by thieves) and can securely store weeks of mail.
Moving on, here’s the latest mail identity theft that has been going on around the country:
A question and answer on identity theft protection…
Credit-card cautions for protecting ID
Philadelphia Daily News – 1/18/10
(PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA) “Dear Harry: I have a friend in Ohio who […] told me that her identity had been stolen a while ago, and she just found out about it last week. She said it was the most miserable mess she ever encountered. Because of that, she suggested that I destroy all my credit cards and cancel all the accounts, even though she doesn’t know how the theft occurred. There has to be a better way, especially since I really need a credit card. Could you please let me know what I can do to protect myself? I know other readers would like to know the best ways to protect themselves.
What Harry says: Some of what I’m suggesting may be a bit of “overkill,” but here goes. There is almost never a need for more than two general cards such as American Express, MasterCard or Visa. Never give your SS number or or other personal information by phone or e-mail unless you initiated the call and know the reason. Avoid giving your SS number to anyone unless absolutely necessary. Use some other ID info like your driver’s license. Avoid giving your phone number or address unless necessary. If the clerk insists, give a fake number. They don’t check. Carry your cards in a place other than your wallet or purse. Compare your individual receipts with your monthly statements. Be sure to shred any bills or other documents that have identifying information. Get three credit reports each year, one from each of the three major reporting companies, and review them carefully. Never “lend” your credit card to anyone.”
Our response: “Dear Harry: You missed one very important element of identity theft protection: the use of a security locking mailbox. Most people DON’T KNOW how their identity was stolen, like the poor folks in Ohio. Low tech methods are the most common cause of identity theft according to javelin strategy research… that means stolen wallets, trash, and MAIL. Everyone advocates the use of a paper shredder before discarding sensitive documents, but they don’t think about what they are shredding… exactly!! What comes in their unsecured mailboxes!! It is so easy, and very common, for thieves to steal from mailboxes… hundreds of mail identity theft stories here: www.mailboss.net/category/mail-identity-theft/
Also it’s important that homeowners get a truly secure locking mailbox, because most “secure” mailboxes on the market can be fished by hand or pried open with a screwdriver in just seconds. A quality locking mailbox should be made of heavy-gauge steel and have pry-resistant features.”
Even the quiet and quaint town of Dublin plagued by mail theft…
Surge in Mail Thefts Across Town
Around Dublin Blog – 1/17/10
(DUBLIN, CALIFORNIA) “The City of Dublin, CA, is seeing a significant increase in mail thefts recently. According to Dublin Police Services, initial reports concentrated in the North Dublin Ranch area on the eastern end of town, where outgoing as well as incoming mail was being stolen. […]
Another report from January 13th, 2010, indicated theft was also occurring on the west end of town, with the most recent incident taking place on Rolling Hills Circle. […]
Dublin Police Services recommends that residents should refrain from placing outgoing mail in their mailbox for pick-up by a postal worker. Instead, outgoing mail should be dropped off at a U.S. Post Office. If feasible, residents should consider replacing their curbside mailbox with a lockable one or a doorway wall-mounted one. In either case, residents will need to contact the local post office or, if applicable, their homeowners’ association (HOA) for approval beforehand. […]
In the meantime, residents should remain vigilant and report suspicious people, vehicles, and situations to Dublin Police Services. […]”
Our response: “There are many studies that show that mail theft is most commonly fueled by methamphetamine use. Addicts can trade sensitive mail (used to commit identity theft) for methamphetamine, or cash to use for drugs.
The best defense against mail theft is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. The Gibraltar/Solar Group locking mailbox shown here is NOT a secure mailbox. It can be fished by hand quite easily, and it can be popped open with a screwdriver in just a second. We have this video on our blog here: http://www.mailboss.net/other-locking-mailboxes-part-i/
If you are going to spend money on a security locking mailbox, (a wise investment given the epidemic of mail identity theft), it is important to get one made of heavy-gauge steel, and with anti-pry features to secure your mail and protect your identity.”
Further evidence that cluster boxes are a joke in terms of security…
Area mailboxes broken into, but no one’s talking
Star-Telegram – 1/16/10
(KELLER, TEXAS) “Mailboxes outside post offices in Keller, Haltom City and other area cities have been broken into by Saturday night mail bandits who use crowbars and take off with the mail. In Keller, the crime was handled very publicly. Residents were notified by Keller police on their Web site, and a news story in the Keller Citizen reported the theft Dec. 20. Residents were asked to file a report if they believe their mail was stolen. Several have done so, and Keller police say they now have leads.
It’s a different story in Haltom City, where police say the Jan. 3 incident was never reported as a theft by the post office. Because of that, the case is not listed as a mail theft (postal authorities can’t prove any mail was stolen) but as a criminal-mischief case. Haltom City police say the case is already listed as inactive.
The secrecy behind the break-in angers Haltom City resident Dee Taylor. She has been trying for two weeks to learn whether a letter she mailed hours before the break-in was stolen. No one will tell her. Taylor knows about the theft because her husband, Delbert Cantrell, discovered the break-in when he went to mail a bill that Sunday morning. He found the box wide-open and empty. Since then, Taylor has questioned postal employees about the incident, but no one will tell her anything, she says. Taylor alerted The Watchdog to the unpublicized Haltom City mailbox break-in. Previously, I saw the police tape at the crime scene of the compromised Keller collection box.
I called the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service, which is responsible for investigating mail theft. A postal inspector told me there have been other box break-ins outside area post offices. But nobody will tell me where and when those incidents occurred. That means that residents elsewhere who mailed letters, bills or gifts might be theft victims and would never know.
In Haltom City, after Cantrell noticed the emptied box, the couple later saw that the box had been removed. When it was returned, it had a front grille at the entry point that makes it harder to pull mail back out through the slot. But pry marks were still visible on the back.
I visited the Haltom City post office and spoke with Station Manager Carlos Avelar. Taylor had previously questioned him without success. […] But after I told the postal inspector about the visible damage, the box was removed a second time and repaired again. A Haltom City police report says police visited the post office to answer an alarm at 7:20 a.m. that Sunday. They found nothing amiss.
They returned an hour later after someone called about a box break-in. The outdoor box was open. They found two letters inside, which they carried into the post office and dropped in an inside slot.
“Mail may have been removed from the box, but I was unable to tell at this time,” officer R.A. Beshirs wrote. “It appeared that the perpetrator(s) used some type of unknown pry device to make the entry into the box.”
Haltom City police Sgt. Eric Peters said: “The case is inactive right now because we haven’t had anybody call us and tell us something was stolen, and we have no suspects in the case. “Until we know for sure that there was mail taken out of there, our hands are pretty tied.” He said those who believe that their mail was stolen from the Haltom City post office box around Jan. 2 or 3 should report it to police.
In Keller, where the public was notified and complaints came in, police Lt. Brenda Slovak called the theft “a big deal.” “That was a lot of mail. That’s a lot of people’s bills that aren’t getting paid,” she said. “The economy’s bad enough without them having to make a late payment or pay extra fines or fees.”
Fort Worth Postal Inspector Tim Vasquez said he regretted that he couldn’t release any more information about mailboxes that were hit. “While I do agree that disclosure is a good idea for the citizens, we have to watch that we don’t do anything to jeopardize the investigation. So we’re not going to give out any of the locations.”
Let me know of any mail thefts from area post office boxes. Postal authorities won’t share the information, but after verifying your tip with police and postal officials, I’ll share. How else will you know to check whether your mail was stolen? […]”
Our response: “It’s pretty typical for victims of mail identity theft not to realize their sensitive mail documents have been taken until it is too late. Generally, people use unlocked curbside mailboxes and have no way of knowing if they have “received” their mail; in this case, the government (USPS) is keeping quiet about it because they want us to feel safe using their services.
The reality is that government drop boxes and cluster boxes especially at apartments are NOT HIGH SECURITY locking mailboxes and can be easily violated. The best thing you can do to prevent mail identity theft is to use a high security locking mailbox that CANNOT BE PRIED OPEN with a screwdriver or crowbar.
High security locking mailboxes do come in wall mount applications as well, so even apartment dwellers can insist their mail be delivered to a secure mailbox. More resources at www.mailboss.net.”
Does it get much worse than this?? Mail-thieving wanna-be cop killing rapist…
Police bust man who wanted to sell “cop-killer” guns
Seattle Post-Intelligencer – 1/15/10
(SEATTLE, WASHINGTON) “A sex offender who police say was a member of a white supremacist gang in prison was arrested by Seattle SWAT officers Jan. 7 after allegedly trying to illegally sell guns that he boasted could penetrate body armor worn by police. Police records also show the man has a history of being assaultive to law enforcement. […]
The man, 36, has not been charged with gun crimes. But he was charged this month with failing to register as a sex offender […]. During an interview at police headquarters, the man and his 29-year-old girlfriend said two handguns – the .44 Magnum and the 5.7 mm – were in locked in the vehicle’s glove compartment, according to court documents.
“When asked ‘What is so special about the 5.7 mm guns?’ …(the suspect) stated that it is known as a ‘cop killer’ because of the special rounds it fires,” Det. Samuel L. DeJesus wrote in court documents. […] He also allegedly said there “was a laptop case full of stolen mail and other fraudulent documents locked in the trunk of his vehicle,” and that he was making fake bank checks for friends, according to DeJesus’ statement.
The man also allegedly named associates who traffic in weapons, drugs and stolen mail – names that were in a portable GPS device. Police later confiscated the device. Court records show the man has a lengthy history with 10 felony convictions, including rape, burglary, assault and attempted indecent liberties. He also has four gross misdemeanor convictions and a misdemeanor conviction. When arrested, he had two felony warrants for his arrest, including one for third-degree assault and escaping Department of Corrections custody.
Tuesday, Seattle police obtained a search warrant for his 1989 Honda Accord. Among the items seized were two 5.7 mm handguns, a Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum and 57 rounds. Police documents show investigators also found what they believe to be evidence of identity fraud: an Acer Aspire laptop, an Hewlett-Packard Photosmart All-In-One printer, a black nylon bag containing documents and mail, blank checks, bank statements and other financial documents. […]”
Our response: “Geez!! This guy is a real piece of work. I would be shocked if methamphetamine is not also an element in this story. Many addicts can trade stolen mail for guns, drugs, or cash. But with this guy’s long rap sheet, he sounds quite a bit worse than the average meth-head mail thief.
One take home message is how vulnerable your identity is. Most people do not know how their identity was compromised, and the majority of ID theft is perpetuated the old fashion way: stolen wallets, trash, and mail (Javelin Strategy).
It is of the utmost importance that we use a high-security locking mailbox to protect our sensitive documents from criminals like this man. There are plenty more of him out there, and it’s so easy to protect yourself.
Most people would NEVER throw their credit card statement away without shredding or burning it, but they don’t think twice about receiving it in an unlocked mailbox. It’s time for people to put 2 and 2 together and secure their mail!”
Standard in Oregon: Mail theft in the “public safety log”…
Public Safety Log (Jan. 15)
Albany Democrat Herald – 1/15/10
(LEBANON, OREGON) “[…] Theft of mail — Deputies received numerous reports of mail theft Thursday in the south Lebanon area. Checks are being removed from the mail and bank statements taken for fraud purposes. “It’s an ongoing problem,” said Sgt. Craig Vogt. He said the mail is being taken from unsecured boxes.”
Our response: Sgt. Vogt said it: “It’s an ongoing problem.” So what can you do about it? Get a secure locking mailbox to protect your mail and identity. You can find a high-security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss at your local Ace Hardware or True Value. Thwart mail thieves and get peace of mind for around $150!
In Utah, more mail theft in the police reports…
Police and court news in brief
The Spectrum – 1/15/10
(ST. GEORGE, UTAH) “[…] Michael and Tracy Hovater, a Washington City couple accused in a series of smash-and-grab vehicle burglaries and mail theft incidents throughout the county, are seeking treatment in a drug abuse rehabilitation program. The couple appeared in 5th District Court on Thursday for a review of their cases while they attempt to get entry into the rehab programs.
Tracy Hovater pleaded guilty last month to five charges involving 14 reported incidents in St. George, two each in Hurricane, Washington City and New Harmony, and one in Leeds. Her attorney, Aric Cramer, said she stands a good chance of getting into a Salvation Army program in Ogden. Sentencing in her case is scheduled for Feb. 18.
Michael Hovater has pleaded not guilty to the charges in his cases and is seeking entry into a program in Salt Lake City or San Diego, attorney Travis Christiansen said. Deputy County Attorney Jerry Jaeger said the prosecution accepts the efforts to get into rehabilitation as long as the suspects are transported directly to the programs from jail and back. Michael Hovater’s case is set for additional review on Feb. 4.”
Our response: It is not surprising these mail thieves are drug addicts. Methamphetamine addiction and mail theft almost always go hand in hand. Unfortunately, meth is quite a tough habit to kick – or so we’ve been told – so it is not unlikely that this duo will be back to their criminal ways burglarizing mailboxes. Even if they can be rehabilitated, unlocked mailboxes will remain vulnerable, so it is vital to secure mail with a locking mailbox. Remember, they are not just after cash and checks. They are after sensitive documents that can be used to steal your identity!
Don’t forget to secure your locking mailbox…
Gilroy Dispatch – 1/13/10
(GILROY, CALIFORNIA) “[…] Mail theft: A locked mailbox possibly containing mail and bank checks was stolen from its post on the 13000 block of Uvas Road in Morgan Hill, between 12 p.m. Jan. 3 and 7 p.m. Jan. 6. […]
Vandalism: A locked, empty mailbox on the 9000 block of No Name Uno was pried open, between 6 p.m. Jan. 4 and 6 a.m. Jan. 5. […]”
Our response: Just goes to show you, not all locking mailboxes are created equal. Most other locking mailboxes can be pried open with a screwdriver in just a minute. Apparently some can even be removed from their post. Not the Mail Boss! The Mail Boss features a patented Fast Trak Mounting Plate that is secured using four heavy-duty lag bolts that cannot be accessed unless the box is violated. With the patented anti-pry latch to prevent leveraged entry, the Mail Boss cannot be easily violated! And weighing in at 40 lbs of steel, we don’t think criminals are going to be running off with it!
Mail theft more than missing mail: Often leads to ID theft…
Mail Thieves in Linn County Committing Fraud
KPTV Portland – 1/13/10
(SODAVILLE, OREGON) “Dozens of Linn County residents have become the victims of mail theft in recent weeks, deputies said Tuesday. Linn County deputies said the thieves near Sodaville have been using information from the stolen mail to commit fraud. The crime is widespread and investigators believe the thieves are involved in a theft ring that aims to find debit and credit card numbers to steal money.
Dwight Hailey, the head of the Neighborhood Watch near Sodaville, said the thieves steal the mail they want and toss everything else aside. He found several pieces of mail in the ditch near his home last weekend.
“None of the locking mailboxes were disturbed, just the unlocked ones,” Hailey said. “There was two to three dozen pieces of mail.”
Phyllis Gaddis said she didn’t realize her mail had been stolen until a neighbor called to tell her. She said only a phone bill was taken, but word of the thieves rummaging through her mailbox made her uneasy. “It makes me feel like everything is going to have to be locked up all the time and I don’t like that feeling,” Gaddis said.
Deputies aren’t sure how many people are involved in the theft ring, but they said they’re following several leads and hope to put an end to the thefts soon. Anyone with information is asked to call the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.”
Our response: Ms. Gaddis said it. Yes, your mailbox needs to be locked to prevent mail identity theft. Whether you like it or not, times they are a-changin’ and unlocked curbside mailboxes will soon be a thing of the past. Gone are the days when we leave our houses or cars unlocked, and now, it needs to be the same with our mailboxes. Thieves are on the prowl looking for sensitive information to steal from the mail to use for identity theft, and a high-quality security locking mailbox is now an essential element in identity theft prevention. Sad, but true.
Four women held in San Jose identity-theft scheme, DA’s office says
San Jose Mercury News – 1/13/10
(SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA) “A team of South Bay authorities said they arrested four women suspected of stealing the identities of at least 100 victims in a ring headquartered at a Days Inn in San Jose. Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Amy Cornell said Wednesday that two of the women arrested Monday at the motel on Monterey and Senter roads were on parole for theft-related crimes […]. Another woman was on probation, and the fourth was a parolee at large.
Agents recovered several items of stolen mail, credit cards, counterfeit mailbox keys and methamphetamine from the motel room used by the suspects. The women have not been charged. Three are in custody because authorities say they violated their parole, which waives many of their rights to a timely arraignment. […] So far, Cornell said the investigation has revealed an estimate of more than 100 victims of the identity theft operation. […]”
Our response: “Not surprising, these mail identity thieves are repeat offenders with a long history of crime. They are also methamphetamine users/addicts. (Really, what’s the difference?) More than likely, they will get a slap on the wrist for these crimes and be back on the street stealing the good names and identities of hard-working Americans in no time.
To protect yourself and your identity, you need to cover all your bases. The majority of identity theft is perpetuated via low-tech methods, including stolen wallets, mail and trash; therefore, the most important elements of identity theft prevention include: (1) Use a high quality locking mailbox to secure your incoming mail; (2) Never send sensitive outgoing mail, i.e. checks, via an unsecured mailbox. Use the Blue USPS boxes; and (3) Use a cross-cut paper shredder to shred all sensitive mail documents before throwing them away. These fundamental precautions will significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.”
Perhaps there will be justice for these criminals’ victims…
Kilgore mail theft case to be tried in federal court
Kilgore News Herald – 1/13/10
(KILGORE, TEXAS) “Two Kilgore men arrested for yuletide mail thefts will be tried in federal court. Kilgore Police Department said Monday U.S. Postal Inspector Paul Ecker has been assigned to the investigation of the series of mail thefts which occurred in Kilgore during the month of December 2009.
Twelve mail thefts were reported to the Kilgore Police Department. The case was presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District in Plano and it has been accepted for prosecution.
Upon their arrest by the Terrell Police Department, the mail theft suspects were identified as Nicholes Adam Hale, 20, and Jerhamee Stewart, 30, both of Kilgore. The pair was arrested while attempting to return a computer to the Terrell Walmart that authorities say was purchased with a forged check.
Terrell police said the suspects were using checks stolen from mailboxes to manufacture counterfeit checks, which were in turn used to purchase computers from local Walmart stores and then return them for cash refunds.”
Our response: Well, hopefully that’s two mail thieves off the street. Let’s cross our fingers the federal court gives these two more than just a slap on the wrist! Remember, never put outgoing checks in unsecured mailboxes. Always use a secure USPS blue box to send sensitive outgoing mail, and lock up your mailbox with a high-quality security lockable mail box to protect your incoming mail and prevent mail identity theft.