Pair accused of mail theft: Police say woman passed $40,000 in bad checks
The Spokesman-Review – 5/13/10
(SPOKANE, WASHINGTON) “An investigation into stolen mail led detectives to an identity theft scheme allegedly orchestrated by a Spokane woman they say was “kind of relieved” when she was arrested.
“She told us we were good,” Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dean Meyer said of the suspect, Jacquelyn A. Crawford. “She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in a way she was thankful she was caught.”
Crawford, 40, and Charlene M. Haggard, 42, are accused of stealing mail and prowling cars, then creating bogus checks with pilfered bank account numbers that were passed at stores throughout Spokane County and in North Idaho. The women allegedly used driver’s licenses stolen along with the check information to complete the scheme.
Detectives say the case highlights the need for extra precaution when paying bills through the mail.
“You need to either spend the money for a locking mailbox or use a (post office) box,” Meyer said.
Crawford and Haggard are accused of stealing mail in Cheney, Valleyford, Spangle and Spokane and of passing more than 100 fraudulent checks worth at least $40,000.
A federal grand jury indicted the women this month on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of mail theft and five counts related to fraudulent checks passed at more than 35 businesses in Spokane County, including grocery, shoe, book and video stores.
The indictment says the women are responsible for car prowlings and mail thefts that began in January and continued until their arrest April 20.
The women, who police believe are heavy gamblers, are thought to have traded some of the items bought with bad checks for methamphetamine […]. […]”
COMMENTS: Methamphetamine abuse and mail identity theft most always go hand in hand. It is no coincidence that meth use and identity theft have both been sky-rocketing across the nation. These issues are not going away anytime soon, so consumers need to take measures to protect their sensitive personal information and prevent identity theft. First and foremost, a locking security mailbox like the Mail Boss can protect your incoming mail from the hands of criminals.
Carmichael mail theft suspect nabbed after dozens of thefts
ABC News 10 – 5/13/10
(CARMICHAEL, CALIFORNIA) “A mail theft suspect believed connected with dozens of incidents of swiped mail in the Carmichael area was arrested Wednesday and more suspects may still be at large, according to U.S. Postal Inspection Services officials.
Rob Rodenhauser said his community [locking] mail box on Lequel Way was hit six times since the beginning of the year. “They came back three times last week. The first time was half an hour after the mail had been delivered,” Rodenhauser said. Rodenhauser believed thieves were trying to hijack credit cards they made using stolen identities.
“My neighbor received four credt cards in the mail over the weekend, all were in her name with some obscure name on the side,” Rodenhauser said. Last week, Rodenhauser spotted the thieves in action and tried to follow their van, but he coudn’t stop them.
Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Postal Inspector’s office, the Postal Service’s law enforcement arm, announced authorities arrested 35-year-old Kurt Micahel Schwering in connection with the thefts. “It’s encouraging,” said Rodenhauser. “But there’s more than this neighborhood. That night, I specifically saw three people. I know there were three more people involved. I saw a male, female, and an older gentleman.”
Postal authorities said the investigation into the thefts and other potential suspects will continue. Mail theft is typically considered a federal crime. Offenders face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each count of mail theft. […]”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is a federal crime, but it often goes unpunished. Thieves often get probation – little more than a slap on the wrist – and are back at it in no time. To protect yourself against mail identity theft , one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, you need to be vigilant. This requires the use of a high security locking mailbox that cannot be fished by hand or pried open with a screwdriver. If you are required to use a low-security cluster box, I would recommend petitioning the USPS for curbside delivery, or as a last resort, using a post office box instead, because the sad reality is that thieves know which boxes can be easily pried open. Cluster boxes are often targeted because they house mail for dozens of residents and often feature poor security locking mechanisms.
CRIME: Mail found stolen from Kennewick mailboxes
Tri-City Herald – 5/11/10
(KENNEWICK, WASHINGTON) “Kennewick police are investigating a series of mail thefts near the west end of Kennewick. Five victims living in the area south of West 10th Avenue, between Kellogg Street and Columbia Center Boulevard, have been identified so far and more are likely out there, said Officer Aaron Hamel.
The thefts were discovered Monday when a good Samaritan found a large pile of opened mail in the area and started delivering the mail to its owners, Hamel said. Officers are trying to figure out where the mail was found and how many mailboxes were hit. There are no suspects yet.
The mail was likely stolen between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday. Anyone with information about the mail thefts can call Kennewick police through the non-emergency dispatch line at 628-0333. […]
COMMENTS: More of the same! The thieves likely stole the mail, took what they wanted and left the rest. The only reason many of these residents knew their mail had been stolen was that a good samaritan found the discarded (read: not useful for ID theft) stolen mail and notified the victims. Otherwise they likely would have had no way of knowing their mail had been stolen.
One more noteworthy point is that the victims had their mail stolen in broad daylight (between 7am and 1pm). It is often mistakenly assumed that the majority of mail theft occurs at night, and you can protect yourself by retrieving your mail promptly after it is delivered. In reality, mail theft occurs at all times of the day and night, with thieves sometimes even following the mail trucks. Therefore, the best defense against mail theft is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss.
Mailbox check thefts ongoing
Ruidoso News – 5/11/10
(RUIDOSO, NEW MEXICO) “The number of reported cases of the theft of outgoing mail, to obtain checks, continues to rise in Ruidoso. Police have four new incidents of checks being used by a mail thief to make purchases.
Detective Doug Babcock said checks can be “washed.” A chemical had been used on the checks to remove or wash the ink from a pen. “Don’t put outgoing bills in unsecured mail receptacles,” said Babcock. “Mail them in post office approved boxes on the corner or take them to the post office.”
The Ruidoso cases of missing mail from private mailboxes at the end of a person’s driveway began in the middle of April. Soon afterward some village residents discovered their check, written to pay a bill, had been used by someone else to make purchases.
“Times are hard, and people think of creative ways to make money,” said Babcock. The latest larceny case was reported on May 3. A woman who had placed six payments in her mailbox during the morning later checked the mail to find a note from the letter carrier. It read, “Your flag was up but there was no outgoing mail in your box to pick up.”
She contacted her bank. The same day a similar message from the carrier was in another personal mailbox. The resident had placed a payment voucher, along with a $10 check, in an envelope and put it the mailbox at 7 a.m. By noon the envelope was gone.
Because of the dollar amount involved, another recent mail theft case is being considered a fourth degree felony by Ruidoso police. Two checks to pay bills, in the amounts of $71 and $50, were mailed. The bill payer was unable to re-member if the payments were placed in a mailbox on the street or taken to the post office. In late April it was discovered that one of the checks has been used at Walmart for $915.59. The other was cashed at the Inn of the Mountain Gods for $250.
Another case involved a personal check taken from a woman’s mailbox. The draft had been altered and cashed at Walmart in Ruidoso Downs. What was a $25 payment ended up being $250. Those crimes, and four similar cases, are being investigated by the police department’s Criminal Investigation Division. […]”
U.S. postal inspectors report there has been an epidemic of mail thefts, as criminals swipe outgoing checks from mailboxes that have their red flags up. The thieves will steal a check in the morning and cash it by the afternoon, the center said.”
COMMENTS: Indeed, theft of checks from outgoing mail seems increasingly common. You should also know that thieves are not only after your outgoing mail; they are also stealing your incoming mail for identity theft. The scary part is you may not know right away if your incoming mail has been stolen, whereas you usually figure it out pretty quickly if a thief has stolen and washed a check from the outgoing mail.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Take precautions to prevent against becoming a victim. Protect your incoming mail (and your identity) with a high security locking mailbox. Use pens like the Uni-Ball 207 to write checks so that thieves cannot wash them, or better yet, pay your bills online. If you must send checks in the mail, take them directly to the post office. Finally, shred all mail before discarding it.
Mailbox Bandit Victims at 24, Nearing $100k Stolen: Police continue to investigate a rash of mail thefts
Wilton Patch – 5/11/10
(WILTON, CONNECTICUT) “The mailbox bandit(s) confirmed victim total is now up to 24 Wiltonians and rising and could stand at almost $100,000 in altered check amounts.
Wilton Police Spokesman Lieutenant Don Wakeman said Tuesday that there are another seven residents reporting mail theft but whose checks have not yet come back as altered. The total amount of those checks, around $21,000, in additional to the $61,000 total of the already reported altered checks, is evidence of a widespread plan of forgery with more victims coming forward every day.
“Victims are still coming forward on a daily basis,” Wakeman said as a potential 25th victim was being interviewed at police headquarters. “The victims that we’ve spoken with so far…we’re talking from late March through mid-April that they dropped their mail. So whether we’re going to find that there’s other mail that was stolen, say, in the second half of April remains to be seen.”
A new development in the case, according to Wakeman, is that the criminal or criminals behind the scheme are not altering the stolen checks but, rather, producing counterfeit reproductions of those checks based on the ones they steal out of the mail. They generally leave the amount of the checks the same on both but alter the name field, using a series of Asian names.
“It looks like they’re creating a whole new counterfeit check using [the residents’] information,” Wakeman said. “The checks that are being created are very close to the original checks.”
[…] Wilton remains the only town in the area to be affected by the plot. Police, meanwhile, are working with the various banks where some of the counterfeit checks were cashed. Wakeman said last week that some of those locations were in New York state, though he could not divulge more information. […]
COMMENTS: When writing checks, you should use a pen like the Uni-Ball 207 or other felt type pens that cannot be washed. (More info here).
Stories like this show that criminals are targeting your mail to steal your personal financial information. To best protect yourself, residents need to (1) use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss; (2) be careful sending outgoing mail – bring checks to the post office when possible, or better yet use online bill pay; and (3) always shred mail before discarding it.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation, and the majority of ID theft crimes are perpetuated the old-fashioned way: via stolen purses/wallets, mail and trash; therefore, the above three steps are the best things you can do to protect your identity.