MAIL THIEVES CAUGHT IN NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA, TEXAS
Arrests made in mail theft
Taylor Daily Press – 12/5/10
(TAYLOR, TEXAS) “Three men have been charged in relation to a recent trend of mail theft in Taylor and subsequent fraud, and police are investigating a fourth suspect.
Christopher McNeil, 29, reportedly stole newly issued debit cards from a mailbox and used them to withdraw over $1,000 from a local ATM. He was indicted for four charges of debit card abuse, a state jail felony, Tuesday. […]
Additionally, police are investigating a case of three men reportedly cashing 38 checks that were returned as fraudulent. The checks were passed over the course of about a month, and some were as large as $2,300, according to the affidavits filed for the arrest of two suspects involved. All the checks passed were written from and made payable to various businesses in the Austin metro area, according to the report.
[…] When Torres was arrested at his residence on Sixth Street Nov. 19 for the forgery warrant regarding the checks, police found what field-tested positive for methamphetamine in amount of 0.1 grams, a state jail felony.
[…] According to TPD Captain Don Georgens, the completion of this investigation should resolve the current problem with mail theft, though the issue does come up periodically, he said.
He added that mail customers should be sure to stop mail delivery when on vacation so that it doesn’t pile up. Police also advise not leaving payment mail in the box overnight.
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.”
COMMENT: Given all TPD Captain Georgens has likely encountered in his career, I find it remarkable that he maintains the completion of this case will resolve problems with mail theft. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and according to Javelin Strategy Research, the majority of victims do not know how their information was compromised. In fact, of those who do know the majority report that their info was stolen via low-tech methods: stolen wallets, mail and trash.This makes sense, and given that most people do not realize when their mail has been stolen, the problem is likely grossly under-reported.
Reports indicates that methamphetamine abuse and identity theft (specifically mail-identity theft) go hand in hand, and with the incidence of both on the rise in our country, people need to take precautions to protect themselves.
The best defense against mail-identity theft? Use a high secure locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. This keeps your mail safe until you have the opportunity to retrieve it, and keeps your bank statements, credit card offers and other sensitive documents out of the hands of would-be identity thieves. Also, never send sensitive documents like bill payments or checks from an unsecured mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or better yet, use online bill pay. It’s more secure. Last, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers. But remember, it’s easier for thieves to steal from your mailbox than the dump, so protect your information at its source: the curbside mailbox.
Federal jury indicts 8 on mail theft charges
Amarillo Globe-News – 12/4/10
(AMARILLO, TEXAS) “A federal grand jury has handed up a multiple-count indictment alleging eight people were involved in a mail theft conspiracy, federal authorities announced.
[…] According to the indictment on file in federal court in Amarillo, the eight conspired or stole mail from collection boxes in Amarillo, Lubbock and Abilene. Some had materials used to “wash” stolen checks of information so they could use them.”
COMMENTS: Mail theft has become a serious problem in Amarillo and surrounding areas in the past couple years. Thieves are targeting mailboxes to steal sensitive information for identity theft – from bank account statements and courtesy checks to credit card offers and utility bills. To protect yourself, secure your incoming mail with a high quality locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. Unlike other locking mailboxes, it can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver so your mail remains safe until you retrieve it with a key. In addition, never send sensitive mail (i.e. bill payments) from an unsecured box; bring them to the post office or use online bill pay, which is more secure. Last, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them. But remember, if you don’t protect your sensitive information at its source – the curbside mailbox – there is no way of knowing if thieves are getting your mail before you!
Police: Man’s shirt, jacket bulging with stolen mail
The Arizona Republic – 12/3/10
(MESA, ARIZONA) “Police confronted a suspicious man lurking near cars and mailboxes and found his shirt and jacket bulging with stolen mail and other items taken from nearby cars.
According to Mesa police reports, residents in a Dobson Ranch neighborhood called police about 2:30 a.m. Friday after they saw a man peeking into car windows and opening mailboxes.
Officers approached Wesley Murray, 26, who was dropping items in the street.
Police said his shirt and jacket were bulging, and they asked him what he was concealing.
He then dumped mail and other items, including a day planner, a knife, a lanyard with several whistles on it and several cassette tapes.
Police said Murray admitted to taking the mail in order to find his girlfriend, who he said lived in the area. He also admitted he had been drunk and taken the other material from a vehicle, police said.
Police said Murray is facing charges of vehicle burglary and theft and also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Tempe.”
COMMENTS: Stolen mail and cassette tapes. There is a first time for everything!
I would like to point out, though, that his justification for stealing mail (to determine the residence of his girlfriend) is… not so great. Most men know where their “girlfriend” resides. Just saying.
Regardless, best to use a high quality locking mailbox to prevent these kinds of people from stealing your mail (and your cassettes identity).
Stolen Car, Mail Uncovered After Car Crash
ABC 7 – 12/3/10
(ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO) “Two people were arrested in a stolen car Friday morning after a car crash in northwest Albuquerque, police said.
[…] Officers said the car was stolen and stolen mail was also found inside the car.
COMMENTS: Mail theft is an epidemic across the country. Criminals are looking for your personal information for identity theft. Secure your mail with a high quality locking mailbox like the Mail Boss – it can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver.
Police break up mail theft ring in Liberty, Montgomery counties
The Courier of Montgomery County – 12/1/10
(CLEVELAND, TEXAS) “Good investigative work and a watchful patrol officer from Cleveland are being credited with helping inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service break up a two-county mail theft ring.
In June and July, thieves broke into several Postal Service mailboxes in Cleveland, Splendora, New Caney and Porter, taking mail that contained checks, money orders and other items of value, officials said.
“It was an investigation that took a while, but it finally came to a fruitful conclusion,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Devin Mowrey, adding that five people have been charged with engaging in organized crime and forgery.
The charge of engaging in organized crime carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison for each defendant if they are convicted. […]”
Mowrey said he was so impressed with the police work by Potter, Langdon and Van Lake that he drafted up letters of commendation from the USPIS. On Wednesday, the three officers were presented with the commendations letters.
Much of the stolen mail has been recovered, Mowrey said.”
COMMENTS: I remember reading about these mail thefts back in June and July, and in fact we covered them on our blog. Thieves have become more resourceful with obtaining your personal information for identity fraud and theft, and increasingly they are turning to stealing your mail.
To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox or a PO box to receive incoming mail. Never send mail from an unsecured mailbox or, in this case, blue collection mailboxes. Bring bill payments directly to the post office or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Finally, shred all sensitive documents, most of which come in your mailbox, with a cross-cut paper shredder before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.
Man found with 20 pounds of stolen checks, mail
WOAI – 12/1/10
(SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS) “Police busted a man inside a hotel room with about 20 pounds of stolen checks, personal mail, and numerous debit and credit cards.
35-year-old Steven Alcala is charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information. An officer discovered the stash after a hotel manager complained that Alcala hadn’t paid his bill. The police found Alcala with a woman inside the room along with a computer with check-making software and a printer and officers found more checks stashed in Alcala’s car.
Police are notifying the victims, including Michelle Avila, who had no idea a check was stolen from her mail box, right outside her far north side home off Blanco Road.
“It’s scary, people going through your mail, going through your personal things, so close to your house,” she said. No money was taken from her account, but she now says she’s wary of mailing anything from home.
The postal inspector is also investigating. They recommend checking your mail frequently, making sure any locks are in working order, and you should consider having blank checks delivered to your bank for pick up.
Police told Avila to mail checks from a secure mail box at a post office and they advised her to not raise the red flag on her box when she’s mailing something, because that could make her an easy target for thieves.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of mail theft, the postal inspector wants to hear from you. Just call 1-877-876-2455. They’re also offering a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing mail or in possession of stolen mail.
The woman with Alcala has not been charged at this time.”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is an epidemic across the country. Identity thieves target your mailbox to steal bank statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks, utility bills, medicare statements, bill payments and more – all which can be used for identity theft.
No one throws their bills in the trash without shredding or burning them. Then why leave your mail in the mailbox for thieves to steal?
Use a high security mailbox like the MailBoss to protect yourself from mail-identity theft. The MailBoss can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver, so your mail remains safe until you retrieve it with your key. Also never send bill payments from an unsecured mailbox. Bring checks directly to the post office, and when possible use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Last, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them.
HOLIDAY MAIL AND PACKAGE THEFTS ON THE RISE ACROSS THE NATION
Police urge vigilance as holiday package thefts continue
Pasadena Star-News – 12/4/10
(ARCADIA, CALIFORNIA) “A resident had a package stolen from a porch Friday – a holiday crime trend authorities have warned about in recent weeks.
The theft took place just before 3 p.m. at a home in the 200 block of West Woodruff Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Le Veque said in a written statement.
“The ironic part of this crime is that these two suspects were only rewarded with a small amount of anti-aging cream,” the sergeant said.
[…] Arcadia police issued a public warning about just such package thefts last month.
South Pasadena police jailed a man and woman last week on suspicion of stealing mail and delivered packages from homes in that city.
“This type of theft is likely to continue to occur with the holidays upon us,” Le Veque said. “Please be extra vigilant and call the police if you see any suspicious activity in your neighborhood.””
More mail thefts
Columbia Basin Herald – 12/4/10
(MOSES LAKE, WASHINGTON) “Mail carriers in Moses Lake say they have noticed an increase in mail theft complaints made by customers.
With the gift season in full swing, the US Postal Service in Moses Lake is receiving calls everyday regarding mail theft, according to postmaster Debbie Welden.
[…] [Postmaster] Welden said mail thefts are always occurring, but the “holiday season makes people more desperate to get what they need.”
“Mail thieves are stealing others’ mails, hoping to get a hold of outgoing or incoming checks and then changing the names on the checks to be cashed out,” said Welden. “Or large valuable Christmas gift packages.”
She described a recent customer who thought she paid her mortgage bill because her mailed check was cashed. The customer later found out the thief had changed the name on the check in order to cash it, said Welden.
Moses Lake police said most mail thieves do not pre-plan their targets.
“They are grabbing mail in large quantities and not taking the time to mill through it. We will typically find stolen mail strewn across the side of the road over time,” said Ruffin.
Mail theft is a felony, said Ruffin.
The Postal Service wants to remind customers of several preventative measures against mail theft:
- Don’t leave mail sitting in the mailbox.
- Contact the postal service to hold your mail if you plan on going on vacation.
- If you are expecting a gift package, consider picking it up at the post office instead of having it delivered to your front door.
- She suggests people consider buying a mailboss locks.
With inclement weather, the postal service cannot guarantee mail delivery times.
“Our carriers are running late in this weather; people need to be aware and keep an eye out for the mail,” he said.
Multiple incidents of mail theft reported
Lake County Record-Bee – 12/3/10
(LAKEPORT, CALIFORNIA) “According to Brad Rasmussen, Lakeport Police Department Interim Chief of Police, During the early morning hours on Friday, Lakeport Police Officer Jim Bell was dispatched to the Lakeport Terraces residential neighborhood to investigate multiple incidents of theft of United Stated mail from residential boxes.
During the investigation Officer Bell discovered that mail from multiple Fairview Way addresses was found scattered throughout that street. In addition, open mail boxes were discovered on other streets near Fairview Way.
The Lakeport Police Department gathered up the discarded mail and immediately turned it over the Lakeport Postmaster.
At this time it is unknown what items of U.S. mail may be unaccounted for.
The department would like remind residents to collect mail from their boxes as close to the delivery time as possible and not leave it overnight.
Suspects may be searching through and stealing items of mail that may contain checks, credit cards, holiday packages, personal identifying information or any other items of value.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Officer Bell at 263-5491. In addition, residents may also address concerns regarding security of their mail to their local U.S. Postal Service Postmaster.”
COMMENTS: These victims in a sense are lucky because the neighborhood has been alerted to the problem and can take precautions (i.e. issue a credit alert immediately and be vigilant for suspicious activity) to prevent further harm. Most victims of mail theft, however, never realize when their mail has been stolen.
Mail thefts often increase during the holiday season, as thieves are looking for Christmas cards with cash or checks in them. However, mail theft is nationwide problem throughout the year, as thieves target your mailbox to obtain sensitive information for identity theft. With identity theft on the rise, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss or the Package Master to protect yourself.
Police offer tips to ensure packages, mail not stolen this holiday season
The Enid News and Eagle – 12/1/10
(ENID, OKLAHOMA) “With the holidays fast approaching police are offering some tips to help ensure packages and other mail reach their intended recipients.
Enid Police Department spokesman Lt. Eric Holtzclaw said police have not received any reports of delivered packages being stolen but that does not mean the thefts do not occur.
“A lot of times the thefts are not reported to police because those receiving the packages assume there was a problem with the delivery,” Holtzclaw said. “We do encourage anybody who is missing a package after it has been verified through the shipping company to contact police and make a report.”
He said there are several tips residents can take to ensure delivered packages are not stolen from residences or mailboxes.
“If you are sending something to someone please let those people know they need to be expecting it,” Holtzclaw said. “If you’re going to send Christmas packages let the recipient know.”
He suggested checking for an expected packages at the usual time your postal carrier delivers to your home. If using a shipping company or service, ask about other measure they offer to ensure delivery.
“The best way to do it is to require a signature, especially is you are sending high-value items,” he said.
He said some companies will allow a neighbor be designated to accept packages if the delivery comes when you are away from home.
“Be neighborly and ask a neighbor if they will accept a package for you,” he said, “or ask them to keep an eye out if you know you have a package being delivered.””
COMMENTS: Great advice! However, residents also need to take precautions with their mail. If a package is stolen, they may lose a gift, but if their mail is stolen they can become victims of identity theft, which takes months if not years to reconcile.
Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to securely receive mail (holiday cards with checks, gift cards, bank statements, credit card offers, courtesy checks, etc.) and small packages. Some high security mailboxes like the Package Master can also accept packages, so if they are sent USPS they can be deposited and stored securely until you retrieve them with your unique key.
Alhambra residents to be arraigned for stealing mail and parcels
Pasadena Star-News – 12/1/10
(ALHAMBRA, CALIFORNIA) “Two Alhambra residents are scheduled to be arraigned in Alhambra Superior court Thursday on suspicion of stealing mail and parcels in the surrounding area.
The name of the two suspects, one male and one female, have not been released as the investigation is continuing, officials said.
After arresting the pair at a residence on the 2700 block of W. Grand Avenue, South Pasadena authorities found numerous pieces of stolen mail and parcels from residents in the general area.
The South Pasadena Police Department was tipped off after a resident witnessed one of the suspects take a package off a neighbor’s porch on the 2000 block of Primrose Avenue.
“We believe there are potentially additional victims of parcel or mail thefts in the southern area of South Pasadena who have yet to come forward and report them to the police,” said Sgt. Tony Abdalla. […]”
Police Blotter: Parcel and Mail Thefts […]
South Pasadena Police arrested two suspects allegedly involved in a string of parcel package thefts during the week of Wednesday, November 24 though Tuesday, November 30.
South Pasadena Patch – 11/30/10
(SOUTH PASADENA, CALIFORNIA) “At 2:25 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30, at the 200 block of Primrose Avenue, South Pasadena Police reported that a witness saw a suspect walk up to victim’s porch and take a parcel package. During their search for the suspect, South Pasadena Police received an anonymous phone call from someone who believed the person responsible for the theft resided in Alhambra, police said. According to reports, South Pasadena Police found numerous pieces of stolen parcels at the Alhambra household and arrested two suspects. Among the stash of stolen packages, police found a City Council meeting packet taken from the front porch of council member David Sifuentes.
For our coverage of the arrest, click here. For tips on how to protect yourself from package thefts, click here. […]”
COMMENTS: Mail and package theft increase during November/December, as thieves are not only looking for sensitive information for ID theft, but also quick and easy cash, checks, and gift cards. To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open. Request signature required delivery, or if you’re expecting a package and will not be home, ask a neighbor to pick it up for you. Cheers!
Mail Thefts Worry Wichita Residents
Empty mailboxes in one Wichita neighborhood are causing some to worry about identity theft.
KAKE 10 – 11/29/10
(WICHITA, KANSAS) “For dozens of years, the U.S. Postal Service has been a safe and easy way to get letters from point a to point b.
[…] Nearly every day, postal carriers make their way through Wichita neighborhoods, delivering bills, magazines, and birthday cards to each mailbox.
Lately, a few homes in a Northeast Wichita neighborhood have had no mail.
“It was removed from a customer’s mail box, and it was relocated in another customer’s mailbox,” said Brenda Bishop, Wichita Postmaster.
According to neighbors, this is not the first time the area has seen mail thefts.
“It’s happened before. The last couple of years off and on. Historically, it’s been in the summertime. A couple years ago when it happened, particularly in this cul de sac, many of us went to locking mailboxes. You can still receive your mail, but you still have to put your outgoing mail in a vulnerable position,” said Teven Wendt, Northeast Wichita resident.
Is there any way to protect your outgoing and incoming mail?
Bishop said yes.
“You can put your mail in your box or on the outside, but the most secure way to mail your letters is to take them to a blue box, or you can take them into a post office. You can hand them to a letter carrier,” said Bishop.
When it comes to incoming mail, Bishop urges people to grab it each day, not letting it build-up in the box.
Also, get a mailbox with a secure lid, and keep an eye out for your neighborhood.
If you see anything suspicious, call police.
“There are people who don’t care if it’s Christmas time or what time of the year it is. If you have something they want, and it’s easily acquired, they’ll come and get it,” said Bishop.
Tampering with mail is a federal offense. If you think your mail has been tampered with, besides police, call your local post office, who will turn the case over to postal inspectors.
If you are going to be gone over the holidays, the best option is to put your mail on hold.”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the primary ways thieves obtain information for ID theft, the fastest growing crime in the country. In your mailbox, thieves can find checks or gift cards (SCORE!) but they can also find sensitive information they can sell to ID theft rings or use for identity theft. Bank statements, pre-approved credit card offers, utility bills, social security statements, and more all provide a plethora of information.
To protect yourself, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open. (Most other locking mailboxes are easy to violate!) Also, as you all recommend, use online bill pay – it’s more secure than sending them via mail. Last, always shred or burn sensitive documents. Don’t just throw them in the trash where they’re vulnerable to dumpster diving. But remember most of what you shred comes in the mailbox, so be vigilant with your mail.
SPOKANE AREA – MULTIPLE REPORTS OF MAIL THEFT ON THE RISE
Local Authorities: Be Alert for Mail Thieves
KHQ 6 – 11/30/10
(SPOKANE VALLEY, WASHINGTON) “OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE: A Spokane Valley apartment complex manager reported to Crime Check Monday that a suspect has broken into the complex mailboxes twice this month and stolen residents’ mail.
Both the residents at the Franciscan Apartments and the United States Postal Service have been notified of thefts.
Mail theft has been an ongoing issue for Spokane County residents since the wave of identity theft began several years ago, but police frequently see a spike in November and December as people begin sending holiday cards and letters containing gift cards, checks and cash.
Persons sending such financial gifts or payments containing checks should deposit those items in the large blue postal boxes located at post offices or central shopping centers, rather than in roadside residential mail boxes.
Area residents who receive mail at such mail boxes should be alert to strangers in their neighborhoods, and should remove mail from the boxes as soon as possible. Have a trusted neighbor or friend collect your incoming mail if you are out of town or otherwise unable to collect if yourself.
Identity thieves can compromise your financial accounts once they have your name and account numbers from your stolen mail and checks.”
Mail theft […]
The Spokesman – Review – 11/30/10
(SPOKANE, WASHINGTON) “I’ve gotten a couple pleas for for Valley residents to follow some safety tips. The Spokane Valley Police Department is advising that thieves have broken into mailboxes at the Franciscan Apartments twice in the last month. Mail theft is often up this time of year because thieves are looking for Christmas cards with cash or gift cards. People sending such cards are advised to mail them at the post office rather than in their streetside mailbox. Those expecting such cards should get their mail as quickly as possible after it is delivered. […]”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is a growing problem across the country. Thieves are looking for checks to wash, gift cards and cash. But also in your mailbox they can find sensitive documents such as bank account statements, credit card offers, social security statements, utility bills, medical bills and more – all of this information can be used for identity theft, and if you are a victim it will require months if not years to reconcile.
To protect yourself :
- Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. This secures your incoming mail. If you are in an apartment building that receives mail in a cluster box, I would recommend using a post office box instead, because thieves often target these CBUs which house dozens of residents’ mail and can be easily violated.
- Never send sensitive mail from an unsecured (or low security cluster) mailbox. Thieves target outgoing mail to steal checks that can be washed and fraudulently cashed. Bring bill payments directly to the post office, or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure!
- Always shred sensitive documents before discarding them to stop dumpster diving. But remember, most documents you shred actually originate in your mailbox – and you must also protect them at their source (see #1).
You can find the Mail Boss in the Spokane area at several Ace Hardware, True Value and CSWW hardware locations.