Mail Theft Monday – 12/13/10

Lamoine mail theft investigated
Fence Viewer – 12/10/10

(LAMOINE, MAINE) “Authorities are investigating thefts of mail from Lamoine residences, which occurred during the past week.

Hancock County Deputy Sheriff Shane Campbell reported Dec. 6 that a Lamoine resident found mail belonging to multiple residents discarded on a remote road.

Campbell collected the mail and evidence at the scene. The mail has been returned to residents.

Meanwhile, many Lamoine residents have reported theft of mail from mailboxes.”

COMMENTS: When you ask most people in Maine if they have a secure mailbox, they wonder why anyone would bother? After all, by comparison with the rest of the country, mail (and identity) theft is relatively rare in Maine. Now more and more, we are seeing increasing mail theft in all areas of the country, including the Pine Tree state.

The fact is, now more than ever thieves are targeting your mailbox to obtain sensitive information for identity theft. In your mailbox, criminals can find bank statements, credit card offers, utility  bills and more. This information can then be used for identity theft.

To protect yourself, use a high security mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. In addition, never send sensitive mail (i.e. checks) from an unsecured mailbox – use online bill pay or take checks directly to the post office. Last, always shred or burn sensitive documents before discarding them to prevent dumpster diving.

Newell man a victim of high-profile mail thief
Black Hills Weekly Group – 12/7/10

(SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA) “Wendell Highland of Newell is one of hundreds of local U.S. Postal Service customers who received two-year-old “return to sender” mail this week.

“I never knew it didn’t make it,” he said.

His mail was returned after investigators discovered a large amount of mail in an abandoned storage unit near Sioux Falls.

“We believe that this mail was stolen from a contractor truck that transports mail from the Sioux Falls Processing and Distribution Center to the Sioux Falls Airport,” Postal Service spokesman Pete Nowacki said in a news release.

“We estimate that the number of mail pieces exceeds 30,000. The mail dates back to 2008. The vast majority of the mail was discovered intact, although some pieces have been rifled,” the release said. “We believe that the storage unit was used by a suspect in a mail theft case prior to his arrest.”

Investigators say the missing mail is tied to Michael Andersen of Garretson, who was sentenced last June to one year in prison and ordered to pay more than $2,600 in restitution after pleading guilty in federal court to obstructing correspondence.

Andersen worked with a private contractor to haul mail from a Sioux Falls processing center to the airport. Prosecutors said that over a two-year period starting in August 2006, he took mail that included gift cards, endorsed checks and DVDs, putting thousands of items in an abandoned storage garage.

The Inspection Service took custody of the find, which included first-class mail and a large number of priority-mail parcels.

All of the recovered mail has been returned to the senders.

But Highland is miffed, anyway. His two letters were intended for family members — one a greeting card sent in 2008, and the other a series of family photographs mailed in 2009. The envelopes were opened and never made it to their intended recipients.

“They should have notified us immediately. We could have been violated,” he said. “I don’t want people knowing my personal information.”

Highland also wishes he could have had some input in the sentencing phase of the case — but the mail wasn’t discovered until Anderson was already behind bars.”

COMMENTS: In this case mail was stolen from a contractor, but often mail is stolen right from your curbside mailbox. In your mailbox thieves can find all sorts of sensitive information for identity theft, including bank statements, credit card offers and more. To protect yourself, be vigilant and use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily opened with a screwdriver. In addition, never send sensitive mail like checks from an unsecured mailbox – use online bill pay which is more secure. Last, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them. These easy steps will greatly reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of mail-identity theft.


BEWARE: Holiday Packages Swiped From Front Porch
Thieves swiped $600 worth of delivered packages from the front porch of a Spartanburg County couple.
WSPA7 – 12/10/10

(SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA) “This time of year, shipping companies are busy delivering holiday packages, and the thieves are capitalizing on it.

Unless specifically requested, most shippers, including the US Postal Service, will drop off packages even if no one is home.

Such was the case for BJ Klopfenstein, who ordered $500 worth of presents from online sites.

When she hadn’t received them, Klopfenstein began investigating and found that the packages weren’t lost, but stolen. She said her mail carrier confirmed seeing packages from UPS and FedEx on Klopfenstein’s front porch.

“So I knew they had been delivered, and I knew they had been there because she told me they were,” said Klopfinestein.

She and her husband filed a report with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, and deputies say while front porch swipes aren’t rampant, they do happen this time of year.

“Folks are going to get stuff delivered to their homes not really thinking that bad guys are going to be out cruising the neighborhoods,” said Tony Ivey with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office.

Ivey, and mail carriers, advise people to have packages delivered to places where people are guaranteed to be home — work, neighbor’s house, etc.

From the United States Postal Service in Columbia:

  • The Postal Service follows the customer’s instructions on package delivery, and will deliver to a secure location as notified.
  • If a secure location does not exist, a pink form 3907 Mail Pickup slip will be left in the mailbox for the recipient to pick up their package at the Post Office.
  • Customers may leave a note for their carrier, call the Post Office, or communicate with the shipper on the most secure way to deliver packages. We follow all the customer’s instruction to effect secure, timely and convenient delivery.
  • We recommend Special Services, such as Certified with Return Receipt, Delivery Confirmation, Signature Confirmation, and Express Mail that specify that a package may not be delivered unless the recipient is present. For valuables, insurance or Registered Mail is recommended to protect against lost packages.
  • Special Services must be provided by the shipper, but a responsible recipient should communicate with a shipper on special services to protect a package.

Theft prevention tips:

  • Always report suspicious activity or persons to Police.
  • Secure all personal property.
  • Bring only necessary valuables to work or school.
  • Do not leave valuables such as purses, wallets, backpacks, personal electronic devices or money unattended on tables in break areas, libraries, study rooms or offices.
  • Lock your office, residence or apartment.
  • Park in well-lit areas if you will be going to or from your vehicle when it is dark.
  • Always be alert and aware of your surroundings when returning to your vehicle.
  • Remember that your vehicle can be burglarized. If you must keep valuables in your vehicle, lock them out of sight in the trunk.”

COMMENTS: During the holiday season, thieves target your packages for freebies. To prevent package theft request signature required delivery or for USPS packages get a high security package mailbox like the Package Master that keeps your packages and your mail safe from thieves. Be sure to guard your incoming and outgoing mail this time of year too, where thieves can find information gift cards and checks, as well as information for identity theft.

Police Blotter: Stolen Packages
Packages are stolen from the doorsteps of local homes, and a suspect wanted in New York is found in town.
Hermosa Beach Patch – 12/9/10

(HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA) “As the holiday season arrives, police warn residents that thieves might jump at the chance to steal packages and mail left on doorsteps.

Missing Package A Hermosa woman told police that a package delivered to her doorstep on the 400 block of Monterey Boulevard was stolen. United Parcel Service (UPS) left the package at the home Monday, Nov. 29. It was reported missing around 2:51 p.m.

Police Chief Greg Savelli posted a message on Twitter on Tuesday, Dec. 7, revealing that the Monterey Boulevard incident has become a trend this holiday season.

“We had recent thefts of packages left at homes,” he wrote. “Make arrangements with delivery people on when and where to leave packages.” […]”

Christmas Packages Stolen From Homeowners’ Front Porch
Police ask residents to be cautious when ordering online.
The State Journal – 12/9/10

(CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA) “Nathan Arnett has issued a warning for his fellow neighbors: buyers beware.

“Somebody swiped UPS packages from outside my house,” he said.

Arnett ordered several hundred dollars worth of electronics online.

The Christmas presents were for family and friends, until they were stolen from his porch.

“Luckily, I saw my packages on the front stoop before these people stole them. Some people might have them stolen when they are not around and you just think it gets lost in the mail, but that’s not the case possibly,” said Arnett.

“I would say that happens frequently,” said South Charleston Lt. Hugh Leishman.

Officers said they typically deal with purse snatchings, shop lifting and armed robbery during the holiday season.

But unbeknownst to homeowners’, police said gifts that people consider lost in the mail, may have actually been stolen.

“Yes I think many of these cases go un reported,” said Leishman.

Arnett has alerted fellow neighbors in his community about the theft through flyers. Advice he suggests is as follows:

We suggest posting a sign on the doorbell that delivered items not be left unattended.

Also, when placing an order in the future, some merchants and delivery companies allow people to type specific instruction for the delivery personnel, such as: “please leave package on the back deck,” or “leave items around back.”

Homeowners have also been encouraged to contact neighbors to pick up any unattended packages left on front door steps.”

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office warns of mail theft
Times-Standard – 12/7/10

(HUMBOLDT COUNTY, CALIFORNIA) “Responding to increased reports of mail theft, particularly in the Myrtletown area, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is cautioning residents, especially during this gift-giving season, to take steps to protect both items being mailed and items one expects to receive.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service recommends the following:

  • Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders
  • Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you’re expecting checks, credit cards or other negotiable items. If you won’t be home when the items are expected, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.
  • Have the local post office hold mail during vacations or other long absences.
  • If an expected check or other valuable mail doesn’t arrive, contact the issuing agency immediately.
  • Notify the post office and other agencies of a change of address.
  • Deposit mail in a mail slot at the local post office, or hand it to a letter carrier.
  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program.

Anyone who observes a mail thief at work is asked to call the local police immediately and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.”

COMMENTS: Good advice, but this article leaves out the most obvious solution to mail-identity theft  – get a high security locking mailbox! Retrieving your mail promptly just isn’t going to cut it, especially when some thieves are so brazen they are following the postal carriers. A security mailbox like the Mail Boss can keep would-be identity thieves from stealing your personal information.

Mail theft increasing further close to holidays
An increase in mail-theft reports in Tulsa has authorities issuing warnings about leaving outgoing mail in mailboxes and packages on the porch.
Tulsa World – 12/7/10

(TULSA, OKLAHOMA) “Mail theft often spikes around the holidays as thieves take advantage of the giving season.

In many cases, the thieves are stealing outgoing checks, washing the ink off them and then using them again, U.S. Postal Inspector Dana Hansen said.

“Before, they were stealing the outgoing mail to use the accounts to counterfeit additional checks, but now they are actually being washed,” Hansen said.

Reports of mail theft have increased citywide in the last month, but Hansen said she is still working to pinpoint geographic hot spots across the city.

“The hardest thing is that some of the reports have been filed with the Tulsa police, and some of them were filed with us,” she said.

For the quickest response, the theft should be reported to both agencies, Hansen said.

A couple who live in midtown Tulsa fell victim to mail theft Dec. 1.

The woman said she left her home for a short time and that when she returned, she found a flier about a lost Boston bulldog.

There was, however, no mail, which she found unusual during this time of year, when catalogues are plentiful. She called the number on the flier but found that the Broken Arrow man who answered said he knew nothing about a lost dog.

Suspicious that their mail had been stolen, the woman and her husband quickly froze their accounts.

That case is being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspectors Office.

Some people have reported seeing an older man in a white Cadillac in their neighborhood about the time their mail was stolen, authorities said.

Hansen said the best way to prevent outgoing mail from being stolen is to mail it at a post office or in a blue U.S. mailbox.

A raised flag indicating that outgoing mail is in a mailbox is easy for thieves to spot, as is mail clipped to a mailbox, Hansen said.

In November, postal inspectors arrested a man who had a sport utility vehicle filled with packages that had been stolen off porches.

“The best advice is to watch your deliveries and make sure you know when you are supposed to get them,” Hansen said.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways criminals obtain your information for ID theft and it’s on the rise across the country. It tends to rise during the holidays because thieves can find not only bank statements, credit card courtesy checks, etc. (the usual) but they also find gift cards, cash and checks.

No matter the month, to protect yourself you need to use a high security locking mailbox that keeps your mail safe from would-be mail-identity thieves. A high quality one like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open is the best solution. In addition, never send checks from an unsecured mailbox – use online bill pay or take them directly to the post office. And finally, always shred sensitive documents – most of which come in the mailbox – before discarding them.


Parcel Theft Suspects Charged with Felonies
South Pasadena Patch – 12/7/10

(SOUTH PASADENA, CALIFORNIA) “The Los Angeles County District Attorney filed felony charges against two suspects who allegedly stole mail and parcels from the doorsteps of South Pasadena homes.

Two suspects who allegedly stole parcels and mail from doorsteps in South Pasadena were charged with two felony counts on Dec. 2. South Pasadena Police arrested the suspects at a residence in Alhambra last week, following a tip from a neighbor and an anonymous caller.

[…] Last week, South Pasadena and Alhambra Police found numerous pieces of stolen mail and parcels at the house where Zepeda and Villa resided, according to Abdalla. The suspects allegedly stole many parcels from South Pasadena homes, and police are still investigating the total count. One of the recovered packages contained a City Council packet stolen from South Pasadena council member David Sifuentes.

The suspects were caught when a resident at the 2000 block of Primrose Avenue saw someone steal a package from a neighbor’s porch the afternoon of Nov. 30 and called the South Pasadena Police, who began a search for the suspect. During the search, an anonymous caller informed police of the address where she believed the suspects reside in Alhambra.

For tips from South Pasadena Police on how to prevent package theft, click here and scroll to the bottom of the article.

Click on the links below for previous coverage:

  • Police Nab Suspects in Doorstep Package Thefts
  • South Pas Police Reports Increase in Doorstep Package Thefts”

Other incidents from the Watertown police log
Watertown Tab & Press – 12/06/10

(WATERTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS) “Police reported to Whites Avenue on Nov. 29 around 10:45 a.m. where a woman reported a package had been stolen from the community mail area of her apartment building. She reported that a neighbor had found an empty package with her name on it behind the building. A runner’s journal has been reported stolen. […]”

Winter Haven Crime Map
The Ledger – 12/6/10

(WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA) “The Winter Haven Police Department reported these criminal activities from Nov. 24 through 30. […] Mail theft was reported Nov. 24 at a residence in the 1800 block of 16th Street Northwest.”

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