Mail Theft Monday – 3/29/10

We’re back from the Ace Convention and New Orleans and boy did we have a good time! We were glad to have a big ol’ stack of mail identity theft articles to convince those who said “we don’t have that problem here” that in fact, they do!

Well more on that later, but for now, here is the last week of stolen mail and stolen identities:

UPDATE: Mail fraud suspect located
Savannah Morning News – 3/26/10

(SAVANNAH, GEORGIA) “Savannah-Chatham police are looking for a person suspected of mail fraud, the department announced this afternoon. The suspect is wanted in connection with a missing H&R Block MasterCard that was stolen from a residence in the 1100 block of E. 71st Street. The victim had called to inquire about the delivery of a MasterCard she expected, and was told it had been delivered and activated. The card had been used several times at Kroger and Medical Arts, with withdrawals totaling more than $1,300.  The charges the suspect will face also were not available.”

COMMENTS: When items like checks, credit cards, drivers licenses, social security statements and more are delivered in your mailbox, it just makes sense to protect yourself and your identity with a security locking maibox. This victim is lucky because the thief only got a credit card, and she is likely protected by her bank. So she’s out hours of her time and a few grey hairs, but it could have been alot worse! People need to get smart – get a locking mailbox! Don’t let kind of thing or worse – full blown identity theft – happen to you.

Cedar Valley ‘mail bandits’ still sought
The Spectrum – 3/25/10

(CEDAR CITY, UTAH) “Nearly 100 individual and cluster mailboxes across Cedar Valley have been broken into over a period of eight days by whom the Iron County Sheriff’s Office have called, “mail bandits.”

The case is still under investigation with few leads other than a vehicle description, said Deputy Aaron Pallesen. As of March 17, residential mailboxes on individual streets were tampered with and mail stolen in the Cross Hollows area. Furthermore, several lockable cluster mailboxes for housing developments from Lund Highway to the Three Peaks area appeared to be opened with a crow bar or some sort of tool to pry off the metal backs of the boxes for the criminals to steal the contents, he added.

“We are still in need of the public’s help. Any suspicious behavior witnessed around mailboxes should be reported immediately to the sheriff’s department,” Pallesen said. ICSO recommends all outgoing mail be taken directly to the post office or put in the blue U.S. Postal Service drop-off boxes. […]”

COMMENTS: This article just goes to show you that not all locking mailboxes are created equal! In fact, most residential locking mailboxes are not truly secure: they can be easily fished by hand or pried open with a screwdriver or crowbar. This also applies to cluster box units, which are frequently targeted by thieves looking to score lots of mail with one break-in. When possible, residents should opt to use a residential security locking mailbox over a CBU for this reason. When choosing a residential locking mailbox, one should verify that it is made of heavy-gauge steel, cannot be fished, and has an anti-pry locking feature to prevent leveraged entry.

Shoreline area news: Police recommend locking up mail
Shoreline Area News – 3/24/10

(SHORELINE, WASHINGTON) “Shoreline police say mail theft is a growing problem in the city. According to the blog, Shoreline police are recommending residents use locked cluster box units or a single residential locking mailbox. Trouble is, the Post Office does not supply the boxes. They must be purchased from a private company and the Post Office must approve the unit as well as the installation site, according to ShorelineAreaNews. And they can be pretty pricey, ranging from around $1,000 to $1,200 for multi-unit boxes, not to mention the cost of the pedestal. […]”

Comments: Well, DUH! I see in the reader comments on this story that one gal thinks that locking mailboxes are a waste of money because most of them are made of flimsy metal and if a thief wants it he’s going to get it. Well, @Tina1970 some locking mailboxes aren’t made of flimsy metal. Check out the Mail Boss (or the Fort Knox, for that matter!)… you won’t be disappointed.

Steps to Reduce Mail Theft
Shoreline Area News – 3/24/10

(SHORELINE, WASHINGTON) “Mail theft is a growing problem throughout the city and county. Many times victims of mail theft or identity theft don’t understand how it could have happened. A common factor is that they put their outgoing mail into their non-locking mailbox. Thieves also target these mailboxes for your delivered mail.

Shoreline Police Detectives and Storefront Crime Prevention officers have researched ways to reduce this crime. One of the best solutions is the locked cluster box units or a single residential locking mailbox. The Post Office does not supply the boxes. They must be purchased through a private company and the Post Office must approve the Lock Box Unit as well as the installation site. […]

For locked cluster box units: Units often come in 8, 12, 13 and 16 doors and are approximately $1000-$1200, plus $50-$100 for the pedestal. […] The initial cost may seem astronomical but since they are neighborhood boxes, it breaks down to about $100/customer.

For single residential locking mailboxes: Contact your local post office, a company above, or a local hardware store. Remember, the Post Office does not supply the boxes. Boxes must be purchased through a private company and the Post Office must approve the Lock Box as well as the installation site. […]”

COMMENTS: KUDOS to the police for getting the word out there about the growing crime of mail identity theft. Locking mailboxes are definitely a must in today’s world! Thieves can steal your identity by rifling through your sensitive mail documents like CC statements, bills and more. Cluster box units are not always the best choice because they often can be easily pried open, and then the thieves just steal ALL the mail. The best choice is a high security USPS approved locking mailbox that can’t be pried open (like the Fort Knox, or for less money the Mail Boss at your local hardware store). The Mail Boss is $159 at your local Ace Hardware and can be mounted on your existing post. It is USPS approved and has patented anti-pry features so thieves are very unlikely to be able to get to your personal information.  Mail Boss is a family owned company based in Redmond Washington and primarily works with local Ace Hardware  and True Value to provide homeowners with a real solution to stop mail identity theft.

Police: Woman with hundreds of IDs said said she needed them to ‘buy groceries’
Seattle Post-Intelligencer – 3/24/10

(SEATTLE, WASHINGTON) “A 27-year-old woman is facing 12 identity theft counts as prosecutors allege she was caught with hundreds of names and credit card numbers. In charging documents, King County prosecutors claim Crystal E. Casano was apprehended by Renton officers who’d been told she was headed to a hotel in the area. A search of her purse allegedly revealed credit cards, identification and a social security card belonging to another woman.

[…] During the search that followed, officers found a “Wonder Woman binder” with the names and identifications of others, a combination scanner-printer, and a laminating machine, as well as a metal case containing several licenses carrying Casano’s photo and other names. Also located was an accordion folder packed with checks belonging to others, and five hotel receipts carrying multiple names and credit card numbers of other people.

Contacted by police, one man said a $40,000 check found in Casano’s possession had been written to a contractor whose mailboxes had been broken into. Others told police they’d stayed at King County hotels and since seen unauthorized charges on their accounts. Writing the court, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Lisa Napoli O’Toole said she expects the list of victims to grow well beyond the 12 people listed in charging documents.

“There are hundreds of additional victims in this case,” Napoli O’Toole told the court. “The defendant possessed hundreds of stolen hotel receipts bearing victims’ names and credit card numbers.”

Speaking with detectives March 18, Casano allegedly claimed that only possessed the stolen documents and identities to “feed herself.” “She wrote she did it because she needed money, so she had a friend show her how to use her computer to make ‘ID’ and checks … she could attempt to cash to make money or at least buy groceries to be able to feed herself,” a Renton officer said in court documents.

Casano, an Orting resident, has been charged with 12 counts of second-degree identity theft and remains jailed on $65,000 bail. […] Napoli O’Toole told the court she expects to request and exceptionally long sentence in the case due to the number of victims allegedly involved.”

COMMENTS: Apparently in Pacific Northwest lingo, “groceries” is slang for “meth”. Good to know. Anyway, just want to point out that this woman is getting at least SOME of her victims information from breaking into mailboxes. It is not enough to shred your mail, or even to use a low-quality “security” mailbox. People have got to start using high security locking mailboxes because a great deal of ID theft is perpetuated via stolen mail from unlocked or unsecure locking mailboxes. Some high security locking mailbox options are the MAIL BOSS, the Fort Knox, Armadillo and Mail Vault.

Man plead guilty in identity theft scheme
Kansas City Star – 3/22/10

(KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI) “A man has pleaded guilty in a scheme that defrauded more than $30,000 from local banks and businesses, according to the U.S Attorney’s Office. Robert Leroy Maxwell, 45, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of mail theft.

In his plea, Maxwell admitted that when he was arrested Jan. 21, 2009, he was carrying stolen driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and credit cards. From Dec. 8, 2008, through Jan. 21, 2009, he and co-defendant Marcella Diane Machado conspired to defraud the First National Bank of Olathe, First Legends State Bank, Intrust Bank, Mid-America Bank and First State Bank and Trust of Perry, Kan.,by stealing checks and using stolen identities to cash the checks. […]”

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 securing 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.

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