It’s the Holidays, which means the thieves are Happy too!!! Oh yes, they are. Mail theft is pretty rampant in December, with crooks looking to steal gifts and cards from the mail. Definitely time for locking mailboxes, all around! So pardon us, for this particularly lengthy “Mail Theft Monday” – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Mail Theft On The Rise As Holidays Near
Central Florida News 13 – 12/16/09
(OVIEDO, FL) “Residents in one Seminole County city are receiving crime alerts after a rash of mail thefts began last week.
When the mail arrives at the Daniels’ household, the smartest thing Lewis Daniels does to prevent mail theft is immediately pick up his letters. Daniels also never leaves his outgoing mail in his box overnight. “I try to do mine in the morning instead of leaving it at night,” Daniels said.
Daniels lives in a one of the neighborhoods that has seen an increase in thefts. In the past week, there have been 10 different victims in two different Oviedo neighborhoods. However, that’s only the known crimes. Others may not know they’re on the victim list, too.
“Person puts their mail in, comes back the next morning, the flag is down, their mail is gone,” said Lt. Dennis Lynch from the Oviedo Police Department. “They won’t know for weeks that whatever they mailed out didn’t get out.”
In each of the 10 instances, the thief checked for mailboxes with the flags up and made off with the goods. Police said there are some simple steps to follow to keep your valuables from falling in the wrong hands.
“If you have checks that you’re having delivered to your house, you might want to consider having them delivered to your local bank,” Lynch said.
Other tips include depositing mail in a blue postal collection box, and making sure your mailbox is in good condition. Exposed mail can make it attractive to thieves or if you can purchase a locked mail box.
“If they would, homeowners would go to a lock box system, but I like getting my mail in front of my house,” Daniels said. It’s a convenience that should come with a warning, especially this time of the year when thieves know gifts, gift cards and Christmas cash can often be found inside vulnerable boxes. […]”
9 News – 12/16/09
(DENVER, CO) “It is a crime in which victims often do not even know they are victims. Paul McPherson of Westminster says he would have had no idea someone stole letters from his mailbox if a neighbor had not delivered a greeting card and envelope he found in the street. The envelope was torn open along the side.
“I think they went through our mailbox and pulled out anything that looked like a greeting card,” McPherson said. He believes the mail thieves were after cash or gift cards.
Federal agents with the United States Postal Inspection Service say they see the numbers of reported mail thefts go up around the holidays. Crooks look for specific envelopes, according to Jeff Reed, United States Postal Inspection Service spokesman.
“If they see what looks like a greeting card envelope being sent in someone’s mailbox or on top of a mailbox or at your residence on top of a slot to be picked up, then that invites them to open it up,” Reed told 9Wants to Know.
The Postal Inspection Service has agents dedicated to tracking down crooks who steal mail, but declined to give the specific number of agents. “We take [mail theft] very seriously,” he said.
Anyone caught stealing or tampering with mail faces five years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine. In the Denver area last year, the Postal Inspection Service mail theft team arrested more than 60 people for allegedly stealing mail. Agents identified 232 victims who lost a total of $239,000.
Reed says that may seem like a high number of victims, but adds that the United States Postal Service delivers more than 175 billion pieces of mail each year.
McPherson says he has decided not to give crooks a chance to get his mail again. He has rented a post office box for the rest of the holidays. “We’re being a lot more vigilant about the mail,” McPherson said.
He encourages everyone to be watchful and ask questions if they see someone or something out of place in their neighborhood. “The idea that even in a quiet neighborhood you still have theft issues and concerns is unsettling,” he said.
Postal inspectors say another option when you are expecting an important piece of mail is to have the postal service hold your mail at the post office until you can pick it up in person. The post office will do this for free.
If you think you are a victim of mail theft, investigators ask that you file a police report and file a report with the United States Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. […]”
News-Journal – 12/16/09
(KILGORE, TX) “Two men were held without bond Tuesday in the Kaufman County Jail in connection with mail thefts in Kilgore. Nicholes Adam Hale, 20, and Jerhamee Stewart, 30, both of Kilgore, were arrested as they were trying to return a computer purchased with a counterfeit check to a Walmart store in Terrell, according to Kilgore police. Terrell police found evidence in the men’s vehicle linking them to the thefts in Kilgore, police said. Police said the men used checks stolen from mailboxes to create counterfeit checks, which were used to buy computers and later returned for cash refunds.”
NBC DFW – 12/16/09
(DALLAS, TX) “Dallas police said they believe they have broken up a major identity-theft ring.
Officers discovered all kinds of stolen personal information inside a motel room on Finnell Street. Police arrested Mark Anthony, but investigators said they believe he may be part of a larger operative of identity thieves.
Police said they suspect the thieves may be getting personal information from people’s mailboxes.
“Right now, there could be hundreds of victims,” Senior Cpl. Janice Crowther said.
Officers found credit-card applications, birth certificates, drivers licenses and Social Security cards in the motel room, according to a police report.
“If it should have been in the U.S. mail stream and it was taken by Mr. Anthony, he will be charged with mail theft,” said Amanda McMurrey, an inspector for the U.S. Postal Service.
Dallas police said they confiscated 61 pieces of mail in the motel room, none of which had Anthony’s name on it.
Eddie Jones, a Dallas accountant whose identity was recently stolen, said he hopes one of those pieces of mail has his name on it.
“I hope I am one of those guys, obviously, so maybe it will stop,” he said. Jones called the experience a financial nightmare. “It’s just ongoing, every day something new can happen, that you have to go fix,” he said.
Police say mail theft has been a problem as of late, particularly in North Dallas, where Jones lives.
“None of us have locking mailboxes, and maybe we should,” Jones said. “Then your mail is safe when the postman drops it off.”
Stealing a piece of mail is punishable by up to five years in prison, according to McMurrey. Anthony was being held in the Dallas County Jail on $81,000 bail as of Tuesday night.”
Daily Bulletin – 12/15/09
(INLAND VALLEY, CA) “During this holiday season, when packages are wrapped with care and shipped off to friends and family across the country, officials with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are asking people to report any suspicious activity or mail theft.
Stealing mail is a federal offense, according to the news release, and thieves could receive up to five years in federal prison and fines up to $250,000.
To make a report, go to http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov and use the mail theft reporting form or call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 1-877-876-2455.
- Tips to help keep packages safe:
- Ask the Postal Service to hold your package for pickup at the Post Office.
- Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to retrieve your package after delivery.
- Use the Postal Service online tracking to track package for delivery date.
- Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders.
News Times – 12/15/09
(NEW MILFORD, CT) “It’s the time of year when cards, packages and circulars are as common as snowflakes, so Jennifer Lipari of Upper Reservoir Road was a little surprised Monday to find her mailbox completely devoid of the normal holiday contents.
“I thought it was pretty unusual that we didn’t even get any Christmas cards,” she said.
A friend, who lives two streets away, showed up at Lipari’s front door Tuesday morning with a handful of cards and packages addressed to Lipari, all ripped open and dumped near the friend’s home.
Lipari was far from the only victim, New Milford police said Tuesday. Sometime late Monday or early Tuesday an unknown person or person drove through the area, looted dozens of mailboxes, and stole whatever valuables they contained.
Most of the mail was opened and sorted through before it was discarded, said Officer Carla Tencza. “Items were clearly stolen, based on the empty packaging and envelopes.”
It’s not known how many residents were victimized. Tencza said the trunk of her cruiser “was pretty full” before she returned the discarded mail to the post office.
[…] Most of the stolen items were likely Christmas gifts and cards containing cash that people typically send to loved ones during the holiday season.
“This happens every year around this time,” said a supervisor at the post office on Main Street, who didn’t want to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media. “It’s one of the reasons we tell people not to send cash through the mail.”
A partial list of streets where the thefts occurred included Broadview Lane, Upper Reservoir Road, Mia Bella Drive, Great Brook Road and Timber Lane, police said.
Mail is usually delivered to those neighborhoods in the middle to late afternoon, according to residents. But the post official noted Dec. 14 is traditionally the biggest volume day of the year, and Tencza theorized carriers may have been running later than normal, and many customers, believing they simply hadn’t received any mail, left it in the boxes overnight.
Several residents contacted by The News-Times said they hadn’t been victimized, at least to their knowledge.
“How would you know?” one woman said. “You’d just think you didn’t get any mail that day.” […] Police are urging residents to collect their mail as soon as possible to avoid similar incidents, and to avoid sending cash or other valuables through the mail. […]”
Police Investigate Theft Of Mail Left For Carrier
WGAL 8 – 12/15/09
(WEST DONEGAL TOWNSHIP, PA) “Northwest Regional Police in Lancaster County are investigating the theft of mail from residential mail boxes. Over the past week, someone has removed mail from several roadside boxes in West Donegal Township before the carrier could pick it up, the police chief said. Residents who have put mail out for the carrier should verify their letters have been delivered.”
Fargo woman pleads not guilty to fraud
Grand Forks Herald – 12/15/09
(FARGO, ND) “A Fargo woman has pleaded not guilty in an alleged credit card conspiracy.Kelima Smailagic made her initial appearance Monday in federal court. She is charged with 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and mail theft. Authorities say the conspiracy involved about $45,000. […]”
Mail goes missing in West Donegal Township: Police suspect thieves looking for holiday bounty
Lancaster Online – 12/14/09
(LANCASTER, PA) “Police in West Donegal Township are encouraging residents to be cautious when mailing cash and gift cards from home this holiday season. Within the past week, mail has been stolen from several mailboxes in the area of Westminster and Olde Forge drives, Northwest Regional police Chief Sam Gatchell said Monday.
Police believe the thefts occurred when residents placed outgoing mail in roadside mailboxes and thieves got to the items before the mail carrier did, Gatchell said. He said police discovered the thefts when someone found discarded mail that was not postmarked.
Considering the time of year, thieves likely are looking for holiday cards stuffed with cash and gift cards, Gatchell said. He said police are notifying victims and are asking residents who had placed outgoing mail in boxes to verify receipt of the items.
“We certainly don’t want to see anyone get a delinquent notice on a bill or find out too late that a gift wasn’t received,” Gatchell said.
In light of the incidents, police are urging residents to consider dropping off mail at the post office.