Mail Theft Monday – 1/3/11

Neighbor finds torn-open mail strewn in Diamond Valley
The Prescott Daily Courier – 12/31/10

(DIAMOND VALLEY, ARIZONA) “A woman on her way to work Tuesday morning found mail that had been torn open strewn along the side of the road near the corner of Victor Drive and Ramada Drive in Diamond Valley.

She picked up the mail that seemed to come from several unlocked mailboxes nearby and stacked it in an easy to see place, hoping that the mail carrier or neighbors would make sure it reached the proper owners, but the mail was still there when she returned home that afternoon […].

When she told the U.S. Post Office what happened, they told her to call police and, at 3 p.m., Yavapai County Sheriff’s deputies answered her call, D’Evelyn said. Deputies went through the pile of mail, identified at least four victims and returned the mail to each victim, D’Evelyn said.

Deputies confirmed that two movie DVDs and possibly an outgoing payment check were missing. Several Christmas cards were also returned, but the victims were not sure if money had been inside, D’Evelyn said. […]

If you believe someone has stolen your mail, contact law enforcement, the post office, alert trusted neighbors who can watch and report further activity and consider using a post office box, which is more secure, D’Evelyn said.”

COMMENTS: There is something – so simple – you can do to stop this kind of thing. Get a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss – $159 at Ace Hardware, cheaper than a post office box after just a couple years. You won’t have to replace it due to baseball bats or theft, as it’s one tough cookie! Mail Boss keeps all your mail safe until you retrieve it with your key. Then, just pay your bills online and VOILA… nothing to worry about!

Reno couple suspected of “washing” stolen checks
The Reno Gazette-Journal – 12/31/10

(RENO, NEVADA) “A couple and their friend are behind bars on charges they were operating a financial fraud ring where they allegedly stole mail and used personal documents to alter and cash bogus checks, police said.

Their arrests follow a two-week investigation by the Northern Nevada Fraud and Identity Theft Task Force, which is comprised of detectives from Reno police, and regional and federal law enforcement agencies.

Arrested Monday night were Kevin Frank Curtis, 33, a convicted felon who also goes by the name “Steven John Lemmons,” his girlfriend Jesseka Ashlee Koivisto, 22, both of Reno, and their friend Cheyenne Rachelle Coffee, 28, of Sun Valley.

[…] During a search of her home, Salter said, detectives found equipment commonly used to conduct financial fraud, such as computers, printers, magnetic ink for creating fake checks and mail that was stolen from the north end of Red Rock.

The group also is accused of using chemicals to “wash” stolen checks — a technique that allows one to remove the ink and alter names and sums. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft has plagued the Reno area in the last few years. Thieves are targeting unlocked mailboxes and cluster boxes alike to steal victims’ personal documents for identity theft. With outgoing checks, criminals can wash them and cash them fraudulently. With incoming mail, they can obtain sensitive mail for identity theft. To protect yourself (1) use a high quality locking mailbox to secure incoming mail; (2) never send sensitive documents like checks from an unsecured mailbox – instead use online bill-pay; and (3) always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them.

Burglary suspect tied to other crimes
Chico Enterprise Record – 12/31/10

(CHICO, CALIFORNIA) “A 17-year-old boy arrested Monday for allegedly stealing gifts from the home of a neighbor on Christmas morning is now a suspect in up to five other crimes.

Chico police said an investigation links the teen to the theft of mail from five people on Tiffany Lane, where the Christmas burglary took place. The youth is also suspected of taking a bag of martial arts equipment from the garage of a neighbor, who also had mail stolen.

The suspect, not being named because he’s a minor, will be charged with five additional counts of possession of stolen property. […]”

COMMENTS: Most mail thieves are seasoned criminals and methamphetamine addicts. Well, this juvenile is getting an early start apparently! That’s neither here nor there, though, as mail theft is on the rise, regardless of the demographics of the perpetrators. They target your mailbox to steal cash, checks and sensitive information for identity theft, and to protect yourself you need to be vigilant! Use a high quality locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver; this keeps your incoming mail safe until you retrieve it with your own unique key. Never send sensitive mail or checks from an unsecured mailbox; bring bill payments directly to the post office or better yet use online bill pay – it’s more secure. And, never discard sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) without first shredding them; this thwarts dumpster divers. These three easy steps will go a long ways in protecting your identity.

Police Warn of Thieves Targeting Metro Mailboxes
News 9 – 12/29/10

oklahoma city mail thieves(OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA) “Oklahoma City police are warning residents about thieves who are targeting mailboxes across the metro. They are stealing mail from dozens of people, but one victim caught a thief on camera.

In surveillance video, a woman was caught walking up to a home and in a matter of second she snatches mail out of an Oklahoma City man’s mailbox.

“I’m lucky that I have the security video, however how good is the video if you can’t catch the people?” asked the mail theft victim.

That’s why this man, who asked not to be identified, is sharing his story. He wants to catch the crook that ruined his holiday and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“It ruins your Christmas. It ruins your Thanksgiving. It ruins anything like that because you’re afraid to leave your house, afraid that they’ll come back,” said the theft victim.

In the surveillance video, the homeowner approached the woman after seeing her on his porch.

“You can notice in the video she’s holding the mail under her coat and I asked her what she’s doing and she said she was looking for some fictitious name guy and so she turned around and left,” said the man.

U.S. Postal Inspector Charlie Thigpen said there are a higher number of theft cases around the holidays.

“They’re stealing the personal checks that you’re writing to pay your monthly bills and turning around and washing those and producing counterfeits from those pieces of mail they’ve stolen,” said Thigpen.

In this particular case, Thigpen believes these crooks could be connected to a string of other recent crimes.

“This could be involved with a group of individuals that we’ve been looking at for the past 45 to 60 days,” said the U.S. Postal Inspector.

“According to the Postal Inspector, she has ripped off 20 people including the apartment complex since Thanksgiving and I’d like to see her and her group captured and taken out of the picture,” said the mail theft victim.

And investigators want to catch these crooks. If caught, the penalty is up to five years in jail and or a $250,000 fine.

The woman in the security video had long dirty blonde hair and wears glasses. She was last seen in a 1996 black Sebring convertible. If you recognize her, or have any information on these thefts, call Crime Stoppers at (405) 235-7300.”

COMMENTS: There are so many more thieves like her out there – these thieves target mailboxes not only for outgoing checks to wash, but also for your sensitive incoming mail (bank statements, credit card offers, etc.) which can be used for identity theft. ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and homeowners really need to take necessary precautions to protect themselves. The best defense is a security locking mailbox that protects your mail. You can get curbside or wall mount options that have quality locks that prevent criminals from stealing your mail. In the Oklahoma City area, you can find such locking mailboxes at Ace Hardware and Fox Building Supply.

Redmond Police Blotter
Redmond Reporter – 12/29/10

(REDMOND, WASHINGTON) “[…] Friday, Dec. 24. Stolen package: A resident who lives in the 18100 block of Northeast 110th Way reported that a neighbor’s package, that was left on the front porch, was stolen while the neighbor was on vacation. […] Thursday, Dec. 23. Mail theft: Redmond police responded to a report of mail theft in the 9800 block of 171st Avenue Northeast. The mail was stolen while the family was on vacation. The mail was found by a neighbor in the bushes outside of the residence.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is common in Redmond, Seattle, and the Eastside. Use a high security locking mailbox to keep thieves from stealing your sensitive documents for ID theft. Use online bill pay instead of sending checks, and shred all sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them.

Deputies arrest two in mail theft case
Big Bear Grizzly – 12/29/10

(ERWIN LAKE, CALIFORNIA) “Alert deputies patrolling the Erwin Lake area in the early morning hours of Dec. 26 thwarted a possible identity theft in progress.

At 1:15 a.m. deputies saw footprints in the fresh snow near mailboxes in Erwin Lake, one of the few areas in the Valley to get physical mail delivery. Following the tracks, the deputies found mail scattered on the ground. Tracks led authorities to several mailboxes in the area, all of which appeared to have been tampered with or mail stolen.

Deputies continued following tracks and landed at 908 Spruce St. in Big Bear City where they found Matthew Nett, 35, and a 16-year-old in possession of a large amount of mail. The mail had allegedly been taken from locations throughout the east side of Big Bear City. Deputies also recovered mail and property recently stolen during a burglary at a local post office.

Nett was booked on charges of possession of stolen property, identity, and mail theft and burglary. The juvenile was taken to the San Bernardino County Juvenile Detention Center.

Authorities say there are approximately 20 victims. Several have been notified and their mail and property has been returned. The investigation is continuing to determine if there are more victims or additional crimes related to the case.

The U.S. Postal Service has been contacted and a postal inspector will be assisting local deputies with the investigation.”

COMMENTS: Mail thieves are opportunistic and they target unlocked mailboxes to steal sensitive information for identity theft. Frequently they prowl at night but they will pilfer mailboxes in daylight too. To prevent mail theft, get a PO Box or, if you prefer mail delivery to your home, get a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss.

‘Slick’ mail thieves cash in
Victims have lost $5,000 from falsified checks

The Columbus Dispatch – 12/29/10

(FAIRFIELD COUNTY, OHIO) “The Fairfield County sheriff is warning the public to beware of mail thefts.

Thieves have stolen personal bank checks and other identifying information from the outbound mail that people placed in their residential mailboxes in Violet Township for pickup by their postal carrier, Sheriff Dave Phalen said yesterday.

Four people have been identified as victims and there could be more, Phalen said. Their mail was stolen from mailboxes in the Haaf Farms, Summerfield and Woodsfield housing developments of the suburban township in the Pickerington area, he said.

The victims have lost about $5,000 so far in falsified checks that were cashed in Lancaster and Canal Winchester, and in Florida and Minnesota, he said.

Authorities think the thefts began in November, although the victims did not discover anything was wrong until they received their bank statements. […]

“It’s pretty slick,” the sheriff said.

Authorities in Pickaway, Hocking and Ross counties coped with a rash of mail thefts in the summer, including both delivered mail and outbound mail. It is not known whether the earlier thefts are related to the more recent thefts in Violet Township.

“It’s not common, but it has been recently,” said Officer Bud Lytle, of the Chillicothe Police Department. “People are becoming more creative in how they steal money.”

Tampering with the mail is a federal offense.

The U.S. Postal Service in Columbus is generally aware of the theft of incoming and outgoing mail but did not have figures on how prevalent the crime is. Spokeswoman Kathy Lucas referred questions to a regional postal inspector, who could not be reached for comment.”

COMMENTS: Thieves target checks in outgoing mail, but they also target your incoming mail to obtain sensitive information for identity theft. In your mailbox, thieves can find bank account numbers, credit card statements, utility bills, social security statements and more. And the worst of it is they can steal these documents (being “slick” by leaving junk mail) and victims never realize they’ve had their sensitive information compromised.

See, mail theft is really all about IDENTITY THEFT. They take your identity and then they can open false accounts in your name, apply for store cards, etc. ultimately ruining your credit. The fact is the majority of identity theft victims never realize how their information was compromised. So while you’re busily shredding all your mail before throwing it in the trash, presumably to prevent thieves from stealing your mail from the trash, consider the fact that your mail is highly vulnerable in your curbside mailbox for any passerby to steal.

The solution is a high quality locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. Weighing 40 lbs, it not only stops theft of your incoming mail but also can stop mailbox vandalism. With the Mail Boss there is no need to check your mail promptly. Use your unique key to retrieve your sensitive documents from the locked access box, while the postman deposits your mail via a secure incoming mail slot. For more info on the Mail Boss check it out online, or ask for it by name at your local Ace Hardware.

Mailbox Thieves Wreak Havoc in Weston
The Daily Weston – 12/29/10

(WESTON, CONNECTICUT) “Raising the flag on your mailbox can be a signal to thieves, especially during the holidays. According to Weston police, several mailboxes were raided last week. In one case on Lyons Plain Road near Coley Drive, a $20 gift for the mail carrier was stolen. Another Lyons Plain Road resident left a gift for the mail carrier and less than two hours later the gift was taken.

Weston residents also reported a variety of items missing from their mailboxes along Georgetown Road and on Weddington Lane near Kellogg Hill Road.

All thefts were believed to have taken place between Dec. 20 and Dec. 24. A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service in Westport said that several carriers have also found packages in Weston that were ripped open and the contents removed.

The problem has intensified this year, although last year the problem was bad in Westport. This year, very few Westport residents have reported incidents, according to the post office spokesperson.

Residents are advised not to use their mailbox flag if they have left a gift inside, and to abstain from leaving cash gifts, which are untraceable.

If you have any information regarding these incidents, or if you have seen any suspicious activity around mailboxes, the police ask that you contact them at (203) 222-2600.”

COMMENTS: Thieves often steal outgoing mail hoping to find checks and bill payments they can use fraudulently. However, they also target incoming mail to find sensitive information such as bank account statements, credit card offers and more; all of this can be used for identity theft. Most people do not even realize when their mail has been stolen, since thieves will often rifle through the mailbox taking only what is valuable to them and leaving the junk mail. Victims only realize when it’s too late and their credit is beyond repair.

To protect yourself, use a high quality locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily violated. This keeps your mail safe from would-be identity thieves until you have the opportunity to retrieve it with your own unique key. In addition, never send sensitive mail or checks from an unsecured mailbox. Use online bill pay if possible – it’s more secure. And always shred sensitive documents, most of which come in the mailbox, before discarding them; this prevents thieves from stealing your personal information from the trash.

Mail Thefts Trouble Violet Township Neighbors
Mail Being Stolen From Violet Township Mailboxes

NBC4i – 12/28/10

(VIOLET TOWNSHIP, OHIO) “The Fairfield County sheriff’s office warns residents to watch their mail after recent thefts.

The Fairfield County sheriff’s office has received reports of mail stolen from mailboxes in Violet Township neighborhoods.

Detectives continued to investigate recent mail thefts from residential mailboxes throughout the northwestern portion of Fairfield County.

The thefts, generally, were discovered for weeks — until the victim’s identity was used in a fraudulent way.

Personal information was taken, and personal-banking checks were reproduced and cashed in other areas. The checks then were returned to the mail system or placed back in the victim’s mail at a later time.

Residents were urged to be watchful and report any suspicious activity to the sheriff’s office.

Promptly remove your mail after delivery, especially if you are expecting checks, credit cards or negotiable items. If you are not going to be home, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pickup your mail.

“If you believe your mail was stolen, report it immediately to your local law enforcement agency and contact your postmaster,” Sheriff Dave Phalen said.

Residents can contact the Fairfield County sheriff’s office at 740-652-7900.”

COMMENTS: Some mail thieves will actually FOLLOW the postal carrier to steal the mail, so just “collecting your mail promptly” is not adequate protection against mail theft. ID Theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation, and according to research by Javelin Strategy, mail theft is one of the most common ways criminals obtain your sensitive information. And MOST victims do not even realize when their mail has been stolen (like in this case). To protect yourself, use a high quality locking mailbox like the MAIL BOSS – it can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. You can find the Mail Boss at your local Ace Hardware or True Value.

Man, boy arrested on suspicion of identity theft
Redlands Daily Theft – 12/28/10

(BIG BEAR CITY, CALIFORNIA) “Sheriff’s deputies Sunday arrested a 35-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy suspected of stealing items from the mailboxes of 20 people.

San Bernardino County deputies were patrolling at 1:15 a.m. Sunday near Erwin Lake when they found fresh footprints in new snow near mailboxes, according to a Sheriff’s Department news release. The deputies followed the footprints and found mail scattered on the ground. The tracks led to other mailboxes, and it appeared that mail had been tampered with or stolen.

The deputies then followed the tracks to the home of Matthew Nett, where they spoke with Nett and the boy. Deputies also found mail taken from Big Bear City’s east side, as well as mail and property recently stolen from a post office, according to the news release.

The deputies arrested Nett and the boy on suspicion of possession of stolen property, identity theft and burglary.

They booked Nett at the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station Jail. They booked the boy at San Bernardino County Juvenile Detention Center.

The Sheriff’s Department has contacted several victims and returned mail and other property to them.”

COMMENTS: Sounds like a real bright father and son mail thievin’ team! In all seriousness, mail theft is one of the most common ways criminals obtain your sensitive information for ID theft. In this case, the victims are lucky that police noticed the suspicious footprints and were able to apprehend the suspects, but most of the times victims of mail theft do not even realize their mail has been stolen. The best defense against mail-identity theft is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can safeguard your mail from criminals and keep it secure until you retrieve it.

Police: Thief steals Christmas gifts in Northern Idaho
KTVB – 12/27/10

(COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO) “Packages meant to go under Christmas trees for some Idaho families still haven’t arrived and police are blaming a real-life Grinch.

On Christmas Eve, a suspicious man and car were spotted around some Coeur d’Alene homes.

“A neighbor just paid attention and they called it into police,” said Sgt. Brett Walton of Coeur d’Alene Police Department. “This wasn’t Santa Claus. No, no, he wasn’t wearing a red suit.”

Officers said instead they found Joseph O’Masters. In the car, they found more than 100 pieces of mail that didn’t belong to him.

O’Masters is now charged with felony grand theft.

“Value is in excess of $1,200 and consisted of holiday cards, photos, presents,” Walton said. “You really can’t put a value on for people that were trying to get those out for the holidays.”

The mail was from all over the country and was for Coeur d’Alene and Hayden Lake residents.

Police believe O’Masters may have been after money and gift cards.

“Sometimes people are down on their luck you know, for whatever reason, whether it’s a drug habit or they’re just out of a job,” Walton said. “Essentially, a Grinch-style ruined Christmas.”

Police nabbed the suspect Christmas Eve but not all of the mail made it to the rightful owners in time for Christmas.

They are working with the post office to return some packages. Other mail must be kept as evidence.

O’Masters is in the Kootenai County jail.”

COMMENTS: This Grinch, again? Well at least he’s behind bars now. In Coeur d’Alene, most people believe their mail is safe and locking mailboxes are a rare sight indeed. Hopefully now, people will realize that their curbside mailboxes are vulnerable to mail-identity theft. The solution is easy: a high quality locked mailbox like the MailBoss security mailbox.

Weston Police Warn of Mail Thieves
The Daily Weston – 12/26/10

(WESTON, CONNECTICUT) “Has the Grinch stolen Christmas? At least one Weston home has fallen victim to the green grouch, or at least someone interested in the spirit of taking.

According to Detective Carl Filsinger, a package was stolen outside the garage door of a Redding Road resident just before Christmas. The Postal Service is also reporting that many residents have called to complain about missing packages in Fairfield County, including in Wilton.

“Other communities often get complaints like this around the holidays,” Filsinger said in an email.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has these suggestions to help keep your mail safe:

  • 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.
  • Have your local post office hold your mail while you’re on vacation or absent from your home for a long period of time.
  • If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
  • If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
  • Always deposit your mail in a mail slot at your local post office or hand it to your letter carrier.
  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other’s mailboxes as well as homes.
  • If you observe a mail thief at work, call the local police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.

COMMENTS: USPS makes some good recommendations, but the best defense against mail theft is three fold:

  1. Use a high security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail, since thieves often follow postal carriers, simply retrieving mail promptly is not adequate protection. Choose a locked mailbox that cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver so that it cannot be easily violated by would-be identity thieves. A good option is the Mail Boss locking security mailbox.
  2. Never send sensitive documents from an unsecured mailbox. Hand checks or bill payments directly to the postal carrier or bring them to the post office. Better yet, use online bill pay – it’s more secure!
  3. Always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them to prevent thieves from stealing your sensitive information from the trash.

Woman arrested after mail stolen in Laguna Beach
The Orange County Register – 12/26/10

(LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA) “A 37-year-old Santa Ana woman was arrested early Sunday on state and federal charges on suspicion of stealing mail from an apartment complex, police said.

Authorities received a call at 6:56 a.m. from a man who said he had witnessed the woman later identified as Teresa Gonzalez rummaging through and taking mail from mailboxes, Laguna Beach police Sgt. George Ramos said.

The man stopped Gonzalez and took away her car keys until officers arrived, Ramos said.

Gonzalez was arrested on suspicion of stealing mail and also found to be in possession of methamphetamine, Ramos said. She was also booked on drug charges and is being held in lieu of$20,000 bail at the Laguna Beach Police Department jail.

Police are continuing the investigation and are getting in touch with the owners of the stolen mail.”

COMMENTS: Mail theft and methamphetamine abuse often go hand in hand. Addicts steal mail to obtain quick cash/checks as well as sensitive mail such as bank statements, credit card offers, utility bills, etc. – all those documents you shred before you throw away – thieves take them right out of your mailbox. Then they can use the information for ID theft, or even trade it in their criminal network for cash for drugs, etc. It’s much more complex than most people realize. (For more information on this, google “meth identity theft connection” and check out the feature story MSNBC did on the topic.

Anyway, ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the country for 7+ years running, and stealing from your mailbox is one of the primary ways criminals obtain your sensitive info. To protect yourself, you need to use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver, OR get a PO Box, In addition, never send sensitive documents like checks or bill payments from an unsecured mailbox. Use online bill pay – it’s more secure. And always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your mailbox) before discarding them to prevent dumpster diving.

Mail Theft as a Family Outing
The Snitch – 12/27/10

(SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA) “The holidays are a time for family activities. Sometimes it ends up in the police reports.

Last week, police arrived at the corner of Crescent Avenue and Gates Street after receiving reports of mail theft. They came across a man, his son, and his nephew. And it appears the dad had been teaching his young relatives an interesting game.

“The officers found that the adult suspect told the boys they were walking to the store, but then handed them both plastic bags and told them to take mail out of mailboxes,” noted the subsequent police writeup.

“The suspect further showed the boys how to use a stick to help them reach the mail in some of the boxes.”

Sadly, the evolutionary leap of tool-usage has now been hopelessly corrupted.

With a “copious amount” of mail in their possession, the dad was booked for burglary and possession of stolen property at nearby Ingleside Station. The young boys were released to a parent.

And an awkward Christmas likely ensued.”

How lovely… a family of mail thieves.

In all seriousness, though, mail theft is on the rise across the nation and people need to take measures to protect themselves. Namely, the use of a high security locking mailbox is necessary. Keep in mind, most locking mailboxes can be easily fished or pried open, like the ones mentioned in this article that are fished with a STICK. Make sure your locking mailbox is made of high quality materials and cannot be fished by hand, or easily violated. One good option is the Mail Boss, available at your local Ace Hardware or True Value.

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