Mail Theft Monday – 2/15/10

presidents dayHappy Birthday to George Washington and company! To celebrate, we’ve got over a dozen mail identity theft stories to share just from the past week.

Hey… I know what would be a great birthday present for Abraham Lincoln smart investment – a high security locking mailbox to secure your mail and protect your identity!

Just sayin…

Anyway, here we go!

LC Police: Thief targeted residents’ mailboxes
KVIA – 2/14/10

(LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO) “Las Cruces Police say mail boxes became prime targets for a thief who managed to steal thousands of dollars from people in one neighborhood. People […] say theft is just not something you expect in a quiet neighborhood. But this is a quiet kind of crime.  […]

Raised red mailbox flags are a signal for mail carriers, but an easy target for potential thieves. “Victims received info from their banks or credit card companies indicating there could be some illegal activity.  The victims came to us,” says spokesman Dan Trujillo of the Las Cruces Police Department.

There have been more than a half-dozen victims so far.  Police arrested 28-year-old Richard Crenshaw, who’s now charged with fraud and forgery. “I don’t know what to say.  My mailbox is right there; he could have stolen from me,” says another Las Cruces resident.

In this particular scheme, Crenshaw allegedly would walk up to a mailbox that had a raised red flag, take whatever mail was inside, and then simply walk away. […] After the mail was stolen, police say Crenshaw would use altered checks to purchase big-ticket items like TVs and computers. […] According to police, Crenshaw would then go to a Walmart, across town, bring those same items back with a receipt, and get cash.  […]

Another resident says, “I probably won’t leave it in my mailbox anymore.  I won’t leave anything out front.””

COMMENTS: To the Las Cruces resident – good thinking! Don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox for any passerby to steal. By that same token, use a secure locking mailbox for your incoming mail. If you don’t protect your mail with a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss, you could be a victim of identity theft, which is a much bigger hassle to reconcile then just check fraud.

Washington County sheriff’s deputies discover meth lab in Cedar Hills home
The Oregonian – 2/14/10

(CEDAR HILLS, OREGON) “Washington County Sheriff’s deputies discovered a basement meth lab at a Cedar Hills home Friday while serving a search warrant for fraud and identity theft. Two parents were arrested and two children were taken into protective custody. Stolen property was also recovered from the house.

Law enforcement officials showed up to search the home […] and discovered the lab and stolen property. […] Investigators immediately removed two girls, ages two and three, who were found in the house. The girls were taken to the hospital as standard procedure to check for methamphetamine exposure. The children’s mother, 29-year-old, Bahar Dixon and 36-year-old, Chad Luton were arrested and each charged with first degree child neglect and more charges are likely. Investigators also found two stolen vehicles in the garage along with stolen laptop computers and hundreds of pieces of stolen mail. Investigators believe the stolen checks were being altered and cashed.”

COMMENTS: Weird. They found stolen mail at the meth lab? There’s a connection between methamphetamine and mail-identity theft? No way! Never heard of that before. No, really. Never, ever. Seriously, though, here is a great article about the methamphetamine connection to identity theft. Enjoy!

Sacramento thief almost gets away with stolen mail
NEWS 10 KXTV – 2/13/10

(SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA) “A man was arrested while trying to get away with stolen mail from a business mailbox early Saturday morning, according to officials. Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said Thomas Melger was reportedly walking away from a business near 7500 Folsom Boulevard around 3:40 a.m. When officers in the area stopped to speak with him, Melger tried to run, dropping stolen mail from his waistband […].

Officers were able to catch and detain him without incident. Leong said it appears Melger used a screwdriver to pry open a mailbox at a business about 100 yards away, stealing all the mail in sight. Melger also had an arrest warrant for vandalism and illegal trespassing.”

COMMENTS: This story illustrates the importance of getting a high-quality locking mailbox. If you’re simply going to get a mailbox with a lock on it, don’t bother. Some examples of locking mailboxes that are vulnerable to being violated by mail thieves:

Anyway, you get the idea. There are a lot of locking mailboxes out there. If you’re going to buy one, you should invest in one that:

  1. Is made of high quality and heavy gauge materials, either stainless or galvanized steel. If it weighs less than 30 lbs, its not going to do the trick!
  2. Includes an anti-pry feature that prevents prying with leveraged entry. Can you pop it open with a screwdriver? If so, it’s a no!
  3. Cannot be fished by hand. You know where the mailman drops your mail? If you can reach your hand down there and pull out the mail – and you would be shocked how many models can be fished – then it is useless.

There are some options other than the Mail Boss that offer real mail security, including the Fort Knox and the Armadillo. But, they are considerably more expensive.

Use of stolen driver’s license at casino leads to arrest of 2
The Desert Sun – 2/13/10

(COACHELLA, CALIFORNIA) “Two people were in custody Friday for allegedly using a stolen driver’s license in an attempt to obtain a player card at a Coachella casino, a Riverside County sheriff’s sergeant said. [The suspects] were taken into custody about 12:15 p.m. Thursday at the Spotlight 29 Casino […] said Sgt. John Crounse of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Investigators found several casino player cards, mail and credit cards, which were all in other people’s names, in the suspects’ vehicle, along with methamphetamine and hypodermic needles, Crounse said. […]”

COMMENTS: Meth and mail theft, again. See above.

Letter: More on mail theft
Friday Flyer – 2/12/10

(CANYON LAKE, CALIFORNIA) “I would like to alert my neighbors that there has been theft from the cluster mailboxes in Canyon Lake. The mail is being taken from the outgoing slots in the cluster boxes. Most recently is theft from the cluster box located at Yosemite and San Joaquin. The thieves take your payment checks and use the bank and routing numbers on a new check and use them locally. Deputy Kiebach of the Canyon Lake Police Department is aware of this problem and recommends that homeowners do not use the outgoing mail slots but to take your mail directly to the Post Office. If you think your mail has been stolen, please contact Deputy Kiebach at 244-2955 and report it.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Goldsmith who took the time to locate my phone number off a statement they found in the bushes near their home. Their actions and kindness saved me a great deal of panic and time-consuming phone calls to the bank and possibly helped the police department in apprehending the thieves.”

COMMENTS: No one should send sensitive outgoing mail from unsecured mailboxes. Unfortunately, “non secure” includes cluster boxes, which, generally speaking, can be easily be pried open with a household screwdriver. When possible, make payments electronically. If you must send a check, take it directly to the Post Office. But don’t forget to secure your incoming mail with a locking security mailbox!

Man Sentenced in ID Theft
Denver Daily – 2/11/10

(DENVER, COLORADO) “Richard Creighton was sentenced Jan. 28 by a judge to serve more than 13 years in prison for crimes related to identity theft, mail theft, and forged counterfeit checks, the United States Attorney’s office announced yesterday.

According to court records and information from the trial, Creighton stole mail looking for checks, credit cards, and other financial instruments. He allegedly targeted large apartment complexes where there were numerous general mailboxes.”

COMMENTS: On cluster boxes, see above. And on another note, it is unusual for such a large sentence to be handed down to mail identity thieves. Generally, they don’t see jail time and walk away with probation and a slap on the wrist.

Man Charged, Held On Mail Theft Charge
WAPT – 2/10/10

(GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI) “U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Roper has denied bond for former Gulf coast resident James Clifford Plummer Jr., who is accused of being in possession of stolen mail containing checks totaling $23,000. An indictment alleges that Plummer, 46, was in possession of the stolen mail in Harrison County in July or August 2007.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office told The Sun Herald that Plummer lived on the coast at the time. Federal marshals arrested Plummer in Hattiesburg on Jan. 23.”

COMMENTS: Denied bail? Again, surprising! Maybe officials are cracking down on mail theft since it has become a problem of such epidemic proportions nationwide.

Identity fraud on the rise — up 12% to 11.1 million adults affected in 2009
Los Angeles Times – 2/10/10

(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA) “The number of identity fraud victims soared 12% last year […].The economic downturn may have sparked the increase, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, which concluded that victims lost $54 billion, a 12.5% swell. The number of consumers hit by fraud jumped for the second year in a row, to 11.1 million adults, the highest level since the survey was launched in 2003.

The defrauders, many working out of Eastern European crime rings, are using ever more sophisticated methods. But criminals are still targeting wallets, checkbooks, credit cards and other physical identification carriers twice as often as they use computer viruses, phishing scams or other digital tricks.

[…] Nearly half of new victims now file police reports, doubling the number of reported arrests, tripling the prosecutions and doubling the percentage of convictions. Still, most fraud continues to go undiscovered, according to the report, co-sponsored by Fiserv, Intersections Inc., Wells Fargo and Identity Theft Assistance Center. The survey was conducted through telephone calls to more than 5,000 U.S. consumers in November, including 703 fraud victims.

Of those, some demographics are more vulnerable. Small-business owners, for example, often use personal accounts to run their companies and are constantly making transactions, making them one-and-a-half times more likely than other adults to experience fraud. […]”

COMMENTS: We covered this a year ago on our blog here:

The take home message is: Only 35% of identity theft victims who knew how their data was taken. OF THAT 35%, the majority was from traditional methods, namely: stolen wallets, stolen MAIL and stolen trash… not cyber high-tech methods as is often erroneously believed.

As such, the best defense against identity theft is to protect your physical information, which in practice means (1) keep your wallet/purse secure; (2) use a secure locking mailbox; and (3) use a cross-cut paper shredder before discarding mail.

Washougal man’s stolen credit cards end up in Oregon
KATU – 2/10/10

(PORTLAND, OREGON) “Clackamas County police are searching for a man and woman who have been illegally purchasing items and services with a credit card from a Washington man. The victim of this crime, Joel Jensen, resides in Washougal, Wash., and is the victim of a mail theft that occurred at his residence in Washougal. As a result, Jensen has since received a number of unauthorized transactions conducted on his stolen MasterCard – unauthorized transactions conducted in Oregon’s Clackamas County.

[…] The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office urges anyone with information concerning this crime to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office’s confidential Tip Line – by phone at 503-723-4949 or by using the on line e-mail form. […]”

COMMENTS: You may be surprised how often it is vigilant homeowners who help authorities solve cases like these. Even though most cases still go unsolved, in many instances, the help of good citizens is just what is needed to crack a case that otherwise wouldn’t receive much attention. So keep an eye out for this wily couple who are ruining a Washingtonian’s good name with identity fraud and thievery!

Judge denies bond to man accused of possessing stolen mail
WREG – 2/10/10

(GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI) “U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Roper has denied bond for a former Gulf coast resident, James Clifford Plummer Jr., accused of possession of stolen mail containing checks totaling $23,000. An indictment alleges the 46-year-old Plummer was in possession of the stolen mail in Harrison County in July or August 2007.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office tells The Sun Herald that Plummer lived on the coast at the time. Federal marshals arrested Plummer in Hattiesburg on Jan. 23.”

COMMENTS: Sounds like Mr. Plummer is staying in jail… for now!

Clackamas detectives seeking suspects in stolen credit card case
The Oregonian – 2/9/10

(CLACKAMAS COUNTY, OREGON) “Clackamas County sheriff’s detectives are asking for the public’s help in finding a man and a woman suspected of using a credit card stolen from a Washougal, Wash., man. Detective Jim Strovink, Clackamas County sheriff’s spokesman, said a MasterCard was stolen from the mail of Joel Jensen of Washougal in December. Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 13, the card was used at Talbert Car Wash in Clackamas; a Union 76 station in Clackamas; and the Fred Meyer store on Southeast 82nd Ave., Portland.

Strovink said surveillance cameras have provided clear images of the suspects. The man is described as 25- to 30-years-old, about 5-foot-10, with a medium build and black medium-length hair. He was seen wearing a dark-colored zip-up sweatshirt and blue jeans. The woman is described as 20- to 25-years-old, about 5-foot-8, with a medium build and long blonde hair. She was seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with fleece inside and blue jeans.

Strovink urged anyone with information on the suspects or the mail theft to call the sheriff’s confidential tip line at 503-723-4949. Confidential text messages can be sent to CRIMES (274637 on a cell phone keypad), with the keyword “CCSO” as the first word in the message.”

COMMENTS: I hope these two are caught, and that the victim is heading straight to his local hardware store to procure a security locking mailbox. Ahem: The Mail Boss!

Dear Diary, I Just Committed Another Crime
First Coast News – 2/9/10

(SEATTLE, WASHINGTON) “If you’re going to be bold enough to keep a diary of your crimes, you might not want to have that diary around when you get arrested. It was an early morning chase after a female car thief through the streets of north Seattle on December 13. The suspect finally crashed the stolen car into a stop sign at NE 125th and 26th NE.

Inside her car, police found a laundry list of property belonging to her victims: stolen mail, laptops, backpacks, gloves, flashlights and other burglar tools. Seattle Police also found a personal journal belonging to the alleged thief. According to court documents, she wrote “…I’m driving a stolen blk on blk Benz from Everett to Seattle…” One entry talked about a “…theft of a purse with credit cards…,” taking “$1200” out of an account, as well as a “…$300 purchase at Walmart…,” using a stolen credit card.

The suspect, 28-year-old Tiffany Mcdonough of Seattle, now faces charges of burglary, car prowl, possession of a stolen vehicle, and eluding police. […] Police say Mcdonough admitted she was high on Oxycontin when she was arrested. Hearing that, at least two of her victims expressed a certain amount of sympathy for her, and hope she gets the help she needs.”

COMMENTS: Oxycontin, eh? We hear that’s expensive stuff. No wonder she has to live on everyone else’s hard earned money and goods. We too, hope she gets the help she needs, but don’t think jail time would do any harm. Just sayin…

Man sentenced for mail theft
KTIV – 2/9/10

(RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA) “A man from Lemmon was sentenced to two months of home confinement, three months of probation and $866 in restitution for his guilty plea to stealing mail. […]”

COMMENTS: That’s more like it. Home confinement and probation. Typical.

Mail theft increasing in Central Oregon
KNXS – 2/9/10

(LA PINE, OREGON) “It appears that mail theft is on the increase in Central Oregon. The U.S. Postal Service said there have been more than 70 cases of mail theft reported in south Deschutes and north Klamath counties over the last two months. At this point, several suspects have been identified and federal charges are expected in the coming days. And right now, there are only six cases of identity theft relating to stolen mail.

Investigators recently recovered a large amount of stolen mail at a vacant La Pine home. If you believe you have been the victim of mail theft, you are asked to call the postal investigator at 503-279-2072. […]”

COMMENTS: We’ve been following the epidemic of mail identity theft in La Pine, Oregon for many weeks now. For a recap, see our Mail Identity Theft stories.

Woman faces charges in string of La Pine mail thefts
KTVZ – 2/7/10

(LA PINE, OREGON) “Federal agents said Tuesday they have two suspects in a 2-month string of mail thefts in the La Pine area that they call one of the biggest such cases they’ve seen, in terms of the number of victims. Dennis Fernald of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Portland says 70 to 100 La Pine-area residents have been the victims of mail theft over the past two months. […]

He said the number of victims is among the largest they have seen in a single case, though the amounts of money or other items lost to the thieves has been relatively small. Mail for nearly 20 addresses in La Pine was found late last month in a shed at a vacant home in La Pine and has been returned to the U.S. Postal Service for redistribution, authorities said Monday.

Sheriff’s deputies responded on the morning of Jan. 29 to a report of found property at a vacant home near Sixth Street, said Sgt. Tim Leak. […] The mail later was organized into 19 different addresses on Park, Sparks and Twin drives, Snowberry Lane and Montana Place, and bore postmarks from early January, the sergeant said. The mail was returned to the U.S. Postal Service for redistribution and notification of victims.

A La Pine woman, Tiffany Hughes, was cited in lieu of custody on a mail theft charge Saturday night, but Leak said it was unrelated to the other case and apparently coincidental timing. Weekend sheriff’s logs had listed more than a dozen of the earlier mail theft addresses, but the sergeant said that was simply an officer assigning case numbers to the various thefts from a month ago, not a new string of thefts.

Authorities often advise mail theft victims and other rural residents to look into the possibility of locked mailboxes, to remove the threat of stolen mail and identity theft that can result. At the least, they say, residents should learn when their mail is usually delivered, and try to make sure it’s picked up as soon as possible. […]”

COMMENTS: Authorities are advising that now? Well, it’s been a long time in coming. I don’t think you will see the USPS recommend locking mailboxes, simply because they do not want to perpetuate the notion that the US Mail cannot be trusted. There is a slight conflict of interest there. However, using a quality locking mailbox is the most obvious and best solution to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of mail identity theft.


  1. Lena O on February 25, 2010 at 9:07 pm

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  2. MailBoss on June 2, 2010 at 3:17 pm

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  3. mona47 on January 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

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