Just this week we have mail theft from all over the country: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Texas, and Washington! We even threw in one from Canada this week, just for good measure. Those mail thieves have been almost as busy as we are!!
Heartland woman claims her daughter is a victim of mail theft
KFVS 12 – 3/19/10
(ORVILLE, ILLINOIS) “Imagine you spend the time to pick out a card for a family member, Bought a gift card, put it in the envelop and sent it. However, the gift card never arrives. A Heartland women claims that happened to her young daughter. It was supposed to be something special for Sydney’s 6th birthday. But when her card arrived it didn’t look like the other mail.
“Got torn and then it was destroyed,” Sydney’s mom, Sandy Schenk said. At first she just thought the envelop got ripped in mail, because still inside was a charm and some stickers for Sydney. Schenk said she knew something was wrong when she called to thank her aunt in Kentucky. “She said, what about the $20 gift card that was in the envelop. I was like, no gift card,” Schenk said.
Not long after that phone call, Schenk learned Sydney’s gift card had been used. Six days before the card ever arrived. “It arrived at the Orville Post Office on the 10th. Well, the gift card that was inside of it was redeemed at the Maplewood Missouri Wal-Mart on the fourth,” Schenk said. A spokesperson for the United States Postal Service could not comment about Sydney’s card. but said she is sorry for the loss.
[…] “Just want people to be aware that it may not be as safe as you think it is to send gift cards in the mail,” Schenk said. Schenk said they have reported the stolen gift card to the postal service. A spokesperson said the postal service does investigate mail and fraud issues and takes them just as seriously as delivering your mail.”
COMMENTS: A high security locking mailbox would prevent this kind of theft (unless of course a USPS employee is responsible). Regardless, a locking mailbox is a necessity to prevent mail identity theft.
Mail thefts reported in area
The Spectrum – 3/19/2010
(CEDAR CITY, UTAH) “Individual and cluster mailboxes across Cedar Valley have been broken into since Wednesday by burglars who use crowbars to get in and steal mail. Iron County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Humphries said approximately 48 mailboxes have been vandalized. Residential mailboxes on individual streets were hit in the Cross Hollows area, Wednesday, in addition to three lockable cluster mailboxes for housing developments from Lund Highway to the Three Peaks area on Thursday, he said.
“Two victims called in and reported the crime, but we found mail belonging to numerous subjects,” said Humphries. “There’s a potential for identify theft, as well as checks, credit cards and that type of stuff.”
Deputy Aaron Pallesen said residents should collect their mail daily because the thefts have taken place in the middle of the night. He recommended people call the sheriff’s office if they witness suspicious behavior by individuals on foot or in vehicles around mailboxes. Humphries added all outgoing mail should be taken directly to the post office or put in the blue U.S. Postal Service drop-off boxes.
Mailbox break-ins across the country typically increase when thieves look to cash other people’s tax refunds, according to the Federal Trade Commission. It also estimates as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. However, Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said while his office has investigated mail thefts in the past, never has it been at the current level. He couldn’t say if it was because of expected tax refunds or if it was coincidence.
“We really will rely on the public on this and ask if you can get a license plate number or car description to call us and help us track down these people,” Gower said.
Reports of mail theft are usually less frequent within city limits. Regardless, because mailboxes are considered federal property, any theft from them is a federal offense. Federal statute says a person convicted of mail theft may be sentenced to 5 years in federal prison.
“You’re not talking state or county time, you’re talking federal prison time,” Humphries said.”
COMMENTS: Humphries is right: mail theft is a federal crime. However, mail thieves very rarely receive federal prison time. Certainly, the threat of punishment is not a deterrent, as mail theft is on the rise across the nation. This article does a good job of scaring homeowners about the epidemic of mail identity theft, but says little about what they can do to protect themselves. A high security locking mailbox is a necessity in today’s world. Homeowners need to protect their incoming mail, which is targeted by thieves looking for information to use in identity fraud. Also, never send sensitive mail from your residential mailbox. Use a blue USPS box when necessary. Finally, always shred your mail before discarding it. But remember, the venerable paper shredder is futile if sensitive documents are not protected at their source: the mailbox.
Public safety log (March 18)
Democrat-Herald – 3/18/10
(LINN COUNTY, OREGON) “Mail theft arrest – Deputies arrested India Spring Hathaway, 23, of Halsey at about 10 p.m. Wednesday at her home in the 400 block of West D Street in connection with a string of mail thefts in the Lebanon and Sweet Home areas. She faces charges of aggravated identity theft, first-degree aggravated theft and first-degree forgery. No further details were available.”
COMMENTS: Linn County is a high mail theft area. Hopefully having Ms. Hathaway off the streets will reduce the incidence of mail theft in the region somewhat. We’re not holding our breath, though, since she’ll likely be released in no time!
Man arrested for stealing mail
Paragould Daily Press – 3/18/10
(PAXTON, ARKANSAS) “Police said Jeremy G. Kisling, 33, of Bono has been busy over the past month. He’s facing charges in Greene, Craighead, and possibly other counties of financial identity fraud and theft of thousands of dollars.
Det. Jason Simpkins of the Jonesboro Police Department said Wednesday he has documented seven victims in his jurisdiction since Feb. 19. In Greene County, a Paragould woman reported someone gained her checking account information and manufactured counterfeit checks. […] the checks were used to make purchases in Jonesboro, Ash Flat, Salem and in West Plains, Mo., Simpkins said.
The check writer used the name of Kerry Pendergrass. Using store security video, police determined that the Pendergrass cashing the checks was actually Kisling, Simpkins said. Anthony and Simpkins arrested Kisling on March 8 at his home in Walnut Ridge.
During an interview with Simpkins on March 8, Kisling reportedly confessed to having a driver’s license belonging to Pendergrass and using it to pass the bogus checks. “Mr. Kisling admitted to obtaining the victims’ bank account information by taking outgoing mail from the victims’ mail boxes,” Kisling wrote in his investigative report.
Anthony said in a press release issued Wednesday that Kisling took mail from numerous mailboxes in and around the Greene County area and Missouri. The forged checks were believed total about $20,000, according to the release. […]
Kisling’s arrest prompted the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Postal Inspection Service to urge area residents to review their bank statements for irregularities. Residents who believe their mail was stolen should report the crime to Postal Inspector David Barrett at (501) 945-6726. They may also make a mail theft report on the Web site http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov and to local law enforcement. […]
COMMENTS: Mail identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. One of the most common ways people have their identity information compromised is through the mail, so homeowners need to be vigilant about their mailbox. To prevent mail identity theft, residents need to (1) use a high security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail, (2) send sensitive mail – including any checks – via secure blue USPS mailboxes, and (3) shred all mail before discarding it.
Final mail theft suspect pleads guilty to conspiracy
Mohave Daily News – 3/18/10
(KINGMAN, ARIZONA) “The last of eight suspects in a series of mailbox thefts in the Bullhead City area pleaded guilty earlier this week in Superior Court. Wendy Lorraine Wolf, 30, had been charged with fraudulent schemes and artifices, conspiracy to commit theft and criminal damage. She pleaded guilty to a reduced count of conspiracy to commit theft, with the remaining charges being dropped.
Under the plea agreement, Judge Rick Williams will sentence her April 12 to probation and up to one year in county jail. The jail term could be concurrent to three felony charges she currently faces in San Bernardino County Superior Court. She must also pay $32,500 in restitution.
Wolf was the last of eight suspects who broke into mailboxes in Bullhead City in April, May and June 2009 and stole and forged numerous checks. Seven other codefendants have already been sentenced after taking plea offers, including Dennis Michael Jackman, 49, of Bullhead City, who pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit theft. […]
Welch, Bowersox and Marcum were arrested June 11 in Bullhead City after police officers searched a home and found stolen mail and homemade counterfeit keys used to break into cluster mailboxes in 10 neighborhoods throughout the Bullhead City area. Wheeler, Breitkopf and Currier were arrested in Kingman the same day after trying to cash stolen checks in Kingman. Jackman was arrested the next day in Bullhead City in connection with the mail thefts. Wolf turned herself in July 24. She was originally arrested June 5 for allegedly trying to pass a stolen check at a Needles bank.”
COMMENTS: This mail identity theft team targeted cluster boxes because they are easy to break into and offer mail for many residents at one time. Cluster boxes are not generally secure and when given a choice, people should elect to use a secure residential locking mailbox or a PO Box instead.
Police: Hudson Falls bought truck, TV with bad checks
The Post-Star – 3/17/10
(QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK) “A Hudson Falls man with a lengthy criminal history of financial fraud was arrested this week on charges he used checks from a closed bank account to buy a pickup truck and large-screen television, among other items.
Spencer B. Durham, 34, of Derby Street, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, a felony, for allegedly writing a check for $8,400 to Mountain Side Auto Sales in Queensbury for a 2002 Dodge Ram pickup last July 3. […] He also faces two misdemeanor bad check charges in connection with a $539 check written to Quaker TV in Queensbury the same day, and for an April 27 bad check written to Northway Towing.
Durham was released pending prosecution in Queensbury Town Court. He is on federal probation for his third mail theft-related conviction in 15 years, which occurred in 2008 in Vermont. That arrest came after he stole mail from residents of western Vermont and Washington County, then used a computer to create fake checks based on checks he had taken from mailboxes, police said.
In December 2008, he was put on probation for 3 years in that case. In 1995, he was sentenced up to up to 5 years in prison for felony convictions related to mail thefts in Hudson Falls, and he was also convicted in a federal mail theft case in 2001.”
COMMENTS: Here is a perfect example of a repeat mail identity theft offender who is arrested and released on probation over and over again. Odds are good that as I write this, he is out looking for unsecured mailboxes to plunder. Until the penalties for identity theft crimes are increased, these criminals will continue to victimize hard-working Americans. And in the meantime, people should use a high security locking mail box to prevent mail theft and protect their identity.
Woman suspects her mail was stolen
Livingston Daily – 3/17/10
(LIVINGSTON, MICHIGAN) “A Conway Township woman reported to the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department that someone stole her mail. The 48-year-old woman, who lives in the 10000 block of Marsh Road, said her preteen son saw the letter carrier put mail into the family’s mailbox about 1:30 p.m. March 4.
However, when her husband went to pick up the mail, it was missing. She said she called the letter carrier, who verified mail had been delivered that day. […]”
COMMENTS: The best solution to prevent mail theft (which often leads to identity theft) is to use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. With the Mail Boss, you don’t have to worry about when you get your mail, because you can trust that it will be secure until you retrieve it, even when you’re out of town!
Police log: Mail stolen from neighborhood boxes
The Columbian – 3/17/10
(VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON) “A resident in the 1800 block of Northwest 90th Street told police a group of community mailboxes appeared broken into. The theft was discovered in the subdivision Tuesday afternoon. The resident reported that all the boxes were empty, according to a police log.
COMMENTS: This is not surprising, as community mailboxes (also known as cluster boxes or CBUs) are often targeted by mail thieves. Criminals target these CBUs for two primary reasons: (1) they offer a treasure trove of sensitive mail in very little time; and (2) they are rarely difficult to break into. Like most locking mailboxes, community mailboxes generally have lock quality locking mechanisms and can easily be violated with a screwdriver in a few seconds time. If residents have a choice in the matter, they would be wise to opt of community mailboxes and instead use a high quality residential locking mailbox like the Mail Boss.
Scotts Valley couple suspected in three county ID theft case
San Jose Mercury News – 3/16/10
(SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA) “A simple theft report spun out into a spiderweb of illegal activity and led to the arrest of two career criminals suspected of stealing mail to forge checks and steal people’s identities, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
“They’re ID thieves. They rip off the mail to get hopefully checks so they can produce phony checks,” sheriff’s deputy Nick Baldrige said. He estimated there are at least 30 victims to the couple’s three-county crime spree.The investigation started in February when Baldrige went to a Scotts Valley home because a man thought his roommate, 25-year-old Scott Alan Jackson, had stolen from him. Baldrige said he searched the bedroom Jackson shared with his girlfriend, who is on parole, and found […] a trash bag of mail stolen from Carmel Valley in the backyard and a red pickup parked in front that allegedly had been involved in a hit-and-run in front of the county club the night the business was burglarized. From that evidence, Judge Jeff Almquist issued a warrant for Jackson.
But before local deputies could arrest Jackson, he was picked up in Sunnyvale for allegedly passing a bad check at a business there, according to the Sheriff’s Office. His girlfriend, Brandy Fellows, was waiting for him but fled in her vehicle. She led Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies on a chase all the way to San Francisco, where she eventually was stopped and arrested. […][…] In Santa Cruz, a judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to hold Jackson for the burglary case, but Monday he was booked into County Jail on charges identity theft, forgery, possessing counterfeit bills and enhancements for allegedly committing a felony while out on bail in another case and serving prison time before, according to jail records. Baldrige said Jackson has been to state prison five times before, including stints in the Division of Juvenile Justice when he was a minor. Jackson is being held on $285,000 bail. […]
COMMENTS: The most significant fallacy in this article is that career criminals like Jackson are only looking for checks to steal from mailboxes. A check can be washed and forged just one time. It is useful to mail thieves, but what they’re really looking for are financial documents, bank statements, and other sensitive information to be used for identity theft. If they get enough information from a mailbox, they can steal much more than a check. That is why it is so important to secure incoming mail – maybe even more than outgoing mail!
Resident indicted in federal court
Star Local News – 3/15/10
(THE COLONY, TEXAS) “Juanita Wilcoxson, 39, of The Colony, was indicted March 10 in the Eastern District of Texas for possession of stolen mail. According to the indictment, on Nov. 21, 2009, Wilcoxson was in possession of mail that she is alleged to have unlawfully taken from the United States mail in Collin County.
If convicted, Wilcoxson faces up to 5 years in federal prison. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Andrew Stover. […]”
COMMENTS: This mail thief was (thankfully) caught. Unfortunately, if history is any indicator, she will most likely spend very little if any time (and certainly not 5 years) in prison, walk away with a slap on the wrist, and be back to victimizing hard-working Americans in no time. All the more reason protecting your mail with a locking mailbox is so important!
ID theft suspect nabbed on 141 outstanding warrants
CANOE CNews – 3/16/10
(EDMONTON, CANADA) “An alleged thief who reportedly snatched mail from apartment mailboxes […] was arrested Friday on 141 outstanding warrants. Police had been looking for the 25-year-old man since last June, but it wasn’t until they released a photo and description of him last week that he was finally caught. While more charges could come, police say the suspect has victimized over 100 people.
“When you consider the type of stuff that comes in the mail, it can be Visa information, bank statements, a store credit card,” said police spokeswoman Karen Carlson. “The amount of people affected is numerous in this case.”
On Friday, downtown division police received a tip that the suspect was at a home near 145 Avenue and 27 Street. When cops knocked on the door, the man answered, but allegedly gave officers a driver’s license with a different name.
Police arrested him, then began searching the home. They turned up stolen credit card information, driver’s licences, credit cards, debit cards and computers. They also seized three butterfly knives, a small amount of cocaine, pot, meth, 40 ecstasy pills and 30 clonazepam tablets.
The investigation dates back to nearly a year ago when police revealed one suspect was wanted on 137 warrants and another on 117 charges in connection with an identity theft operation. Police charged Ryan Stuart Johnson, 29, with 117 fraud-related offences in July. But the search for the 25-year-old suspect continued until last week.
David Shawn Tidman was arrested on 141 outstanding warrants and has been charged with 14 additional theft and drug-related charges. Two women are also facing drug, weapon and theft-related charges.
As police begin to sift through evidence seized from the home, more charges could come, cops say. Meanwhile, police remind residents to take all valuables out of their vehicles and pick up their mail regularly.”
COMMENTS: Drug use and identity theft often go hand in hand, as criminals steal mail and victimize hard-working citizens to fuel their habit. Picking up mail regularly does not provide adequate protection from mail identity theft. People should use a high quality security locking mailbox to prevent mail ID theft, and always shred mail before discarding it.
Medina Police Blotter – March 15
Bellevue Reporter – 3/15/10
(BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON) “Mail Theft: Between 7-9:30 p.m. Saturday March 6, a resident in the 7700 block of NE Eighth Street had his outgoing mail removed from his mailbox. Items taken include checks and other personal financial information.”
COMMENTS: Sensitive mail (including anything with a check in it) should not be sent via unsecured residential mailboxes. Instead, outgoing mail should be sent using the secure blue USPS boxes or brought to a post office. At a minimum, outgoing mail should not be left in a mailbox overnight. In addition, residents should use a high security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail, which can be stolen and used for identity theft. Also, residents should shred all mail before discarding it.