Mail Theft Monday – 5/24/10

Suspected two-time ATM thief arrested, Palo Alto police say
Mercury News – 5/21/10

(PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA) “A man suspected of stealing a couple of 1,500-pound ATMs containing more than $100,000 is in custody, Palo Alto police said Thursday. […]

There have been no further thefts of ATMs in Palo Alto since Cortinas’ arrest, Philip said. The detective noted an estimated 100 cases of ATM theft have been reported in the Bay Area in the past six months, though none involved the type of heavy ATM stolen in Palo Alto.

Cortinas’ arrest came 14 days after he allegedly fled from police, who took his girlfriend, 29-year-old Nicole McCabe, into custody May 4 on suspicion of mail theft, Philip said. Cortinas also allegedly pilfered mail.

“They were stealing mail from apartment complexes and trying to cash checks they found in that stolen mail,” Philip said. Both Cortinas and McCabe were on parole at the time of their arrests, Philip said. […]

COMMENTS: Repeat criminals, first stealing mail and then ATMs? It’s a good thing these two are off the streets – for now – but I don’t doubt that they’ll be back at it in no time. Mail theft is a growing problem that is only worsening in this economy. Now is the time to protect yourself with a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss.

Interior woman charged in mail fraud
Daily News Miner– 5/20/10

(FAIRBANKS, ALASKA) “A $10,000 warrant has been issued for a woman accused of using stolen checks to defraud local businesses of more than $1,700. […] Charging documents identify her as โ€œa suspect in dozens more felony charges related to mail theft, check forgery and theft.โ€

[…] Court documents allege that Kocsis stole checks from the mailboxes of North Pole homes on Moonlight Drive and Sitka Court in November. She also is accused of stealing checks from an Old Richardson Highway mailbox in February.

The stolen checks were reportedly used to purchase merchandise from Prospecter Outfitters, Beaver Sports, Safeway, Fred Meyer East and more than a half dozen other local businesses and restaurants. […]

When troopers served the search warrant April 14, they located stolen checks in Kocsisโ€™ purse. The checks had writing on them like someone had tried to use them but was turned down, according to the complaint.

In addition, troopers seized a pillow case that contained apparently stolen mail addressed to dozens of people. Many of the envelopes were from banking institutions.

After comparing the handwriting on stolen checks from two victims to the handwriting on stolen checks from a third victim, troopers were able to link Kocsis to several more cases of check fraud. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft has been a serious problem in Fairbanks for sometime. Apparently, though, not everyone has switched to a locking mailbox up in the North Pole, as people are still being victimized by mail identity thieves. These crooks aren’t going to stop pilfering mail anytime soon, so homeowners need to protect their mail and their identity with a high security locking mailbox. While Mail Boss is not available in very many locations in Alaska, they are for sale in Fairbanks at Fred Meyer!

Fraud talk rings true with seniors
Bennington Banner – 5/18/10

(BENNINGTON, VERMONT) “Many of the seniors who gathered at the Village at Fillmore Pond Tuesday to hear a talk about fraud by Bennington County Sheriff Chad Schmidt said they have been targeted or victimized by scammers.

A Shaftsbury woman, who did not wish to be identified, related an ordeal that began eight years ago when her neighbors took mail from her roadside mailbox, obtained her credit card information, and then gave the information to their daughter to buy school books.

The woman said it took her two years to track down who had charged $67 in books to one of her credit cards. She said the girl knew nothing of the parents’ activities, but did remember being asked by her parents to return a number of mail items that had supposedly been dropped off at the wrong address by mistake.

Schmidt said having mail stolen from roadside boxes is a common method for scammers. He said most cases occur around the holiday season when a high volume of checks are sent in the mail. The red flag used to alert mail carriers of outgoing mail is a beacon to scammers, he said, because most outgoing mail is bills which contain account information. He said the safest thing to do is use a post office box. […]

There are number of ways to be proactive about defending against identity theft, he said. One is to visit www.annualcreditreport.com, which links to three of the largest companies that offer services to prevent people from getting credit card solicitations in the mail. He said such items can be stolen and used to take a person’s identity. […]

Schmidt said people should shred documents they don’t need that contain Social Security, bank account, and credit card numbers. Discarded or stolen mail is a common method of identity theft, he said.

Many people discover their identities have been stolen a few months after the fact when a credit card company finds them and asks about thousands of dollars in unpaid bills. “That’s a bad way to find out your identity has been stolen,” he said. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is a leading cause of identity theft, and like Schmidt says in this article, many victims of mail theft do not realize their sensitive documents have been stolen until its too late. Many more victims of identity theft never know how their information was compromised; in fact, over 65% of ID theft victims can’t say how their info was lost. Of the people who know how their info was taken, the majority point to “low-tech” methods including stolen wallets/purses, mail and trash.

This article gives good tips for detecting identity theft, and indeed monitoring your bank statements and checking your credit report annually are good steps regardless. However, there are several simple steps you should take to help prevent identity theft. Simply put, they are: (1) Use a high security locking mailbox that can’t be fished or pried open like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail; (2) Never send sensitive mail including checks from an unsecured mailbox – instead take it to the post office or better yet use online bill pay; and (3) Always shred your mail and sensitive documents before discarding them.

Finally, remember if you’re just shredding, it’s not enough. How do you know your receiving all your mail that you so diligently shred? You can’t shred what you don’t get so lock up your mailbox to secure your mail and protect your identity!

WEST COUNTY POLICE BEAT: Week of May 19
Suburban Journals – 5/19/10

(Manchester, MISSOURI) “Mail, including personal checks, was reported stolen April 29 from a home in the 1500 block of Ploma Drive.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

(Somehow we missed these the first time around… but they’re too good to not share)

Man Sentenced For Fraud, ID Theft: Scheme Involved Stealing Mail, Authorities Say
KCRA 3 – 4/1/10

(SACRAMENTO, CA) “A Stockton man was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for felony bank fraud and identity theft, federal prosecutors said. […] According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rodriguez, who prosecuted the case, Soulyalangsy carried out a scheme to steal money from financial institutions by impersonating others from January 2007 through June 2009. Soulyalangsy attempted to steal more than $40,000, officials said.

As part of the scheme, Soulyalangsy took mail from Lodi, Linden, Stockton and Galt, prosecutors said.

Authorities said Soulyalangsy used stolen identification and financial information from the mail and elsewhere, including names with matching Social Security numbers, to pose as victims and to open and access bank accounts.

Soulyalangsy possessed stolen mail of more than 10 victims and, in executing the bank fraud, check kiting and identity theft schemes, posed as at least four different victims, prosecutors said. […]”

COMMENTS: Most people are not “expecting” the mail they receive from day to day, and therefore they do not realize when mail goes “missing”. The fact is that over 65% of identity theft victims have no idea how their identity was compromised, but of the minority who know how their personal info was taken, the majority is via low-tech methods: stolen wallets/purses, mail and trash. This indicates that while the USPS insists that mail theft only accounts for 2% of identity theft, this is a gross underestimation. In fact, stolen mail is a leading cause of identity theft – it just often goes unnoticed.

To protect yourself against mail identity theft, you should use a high security locking mail box like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail, never send checks from an unsecured mailbox (instead go to the post office or use online bill pay), and always shred your mail before discarding it.

Leader of ID theft ring sentenced
Denver Post – 2/10/10

(DENVER, COLORADO) “The leader of a mail- and identity-theft ring has been sentenced to more than 13 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver said today.

Prosecutors said Ronald Richard Creighton, 37, of Colorado Springs, and his accomplices stole mail after breaking into mailboxes in large apartment complexes in Denver and Colorado Springs.

They had more than 4,000 victims, often using sophisticated computers and printers for create fake IDs and counterfeited checks using the stolen mail.

[…] Proceeds, however, “usually went to pay for methamphetamine, which they used on a regular basis,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.”

COMMENTS: I’m not surprised their profits went to buy meth. There is a strong link between mail identity theft and methamphetamine, with the criminals working in complex rings sometimes even trading stolen mail for drugs. Mail identity theft is on the rise across the nation and the best defense is a high security locked mailbox to protect incoming mail. In addition, people should not send sensitive mail or checks from unsecured mailboxes (use the Post Office) and always shred mail and sensitive documents before discarding them.

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