Mail Theft Monday – 6/7/10

Couple indicted in mail theft
Texarkana Gazette – 6/3/10

(TEXARKANA, ARKANSAS) “Federal indictments were handed down last week for a man and woman accused of conspiring to steal mail from residents in Texarkana, Ark.

Justin Lovell, 24, and Starla Richardson, 30, are accused of snatching envelopes from residential mailboxes that contained checks written against the accounts of the alleged victims.

Richardson and Lovell allegedly stole mail from a home on Rondo Road sometime about Oct. 10, 2009, the indictments said. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft hits Texarkana, Arkansas! We’ve said it before – mail theft is not just a problem on the west coast anymore. Increasingly we are seeing mail theft in the media across the nation, even in small rural communities like Texarkana. The best defense against mail identity theft is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. The good news for victims in Texarkana is that they can simply go to their local Atwoods or S & S Home Center to get the Mail Boss, and with it, peace of mind!



Men charged in mailbox-vandalism spree
Austin Post-Bulletin – 6/3/10

(AUSTIN, MINNESOTA) “A driving vandalism spree last month that involved bashing mailboxes and vehicle windows with a bat in and around Austin has led to charges against at least two men.

Bruce Heimer, 20; Dakota James Ringling, 18; and John Michael Nolan, 19, are each charged in Mower District Court with a single felony count of aiding and abetting first-degree criminal damage to property (more than $1,000 in damage). The estimated damage total is about $2,778 as reported by residents and businesses.

[…] At least 29 mailboxes were vandalized along with a home’s decorative wooden sign and two windows on vans parked behind Oak Park Mall and Hy-Vee Food store, according to the complaint. Mower County owns one van; Hy-Vee has the other.

[…] In Austin, mailboxes were reported damaged in the area around Ninth Avenue and 24th Street Southwest. […] All three men allegedly admitted damaging mailboxes. Heimer and Ringling told police Nolan did most of the mailbox damage and that it was Nolan’s idea to “go check the mail,” according to the complaint. Heimer referred to the vandalism as “delivering mail,” the complaint says. […]

COMMENTS: Ah, good ol’ mailbox baseball! Well one thing you can do to prevent this kind of thing is get a heavy gauge steel mailbox like the Mail Boss. It’s virtually vandal proof and leave have these men (read: troubled teens) with very sore shoulders. Plus the Mail Boss locking mailbox prevents mail identity theft, which is arguably a much more serious problem!

Benton Co. Sheriff’s Deputies arrest 4 accused of stealing mail
The Bellingham Herald – 6/2/10

(KENNEWICK, WA) “Four suspects accused of stealing mail from rural mailboxes in Benton County were nabbed after witnesses called 911, authorities said. Benton County sheriff’s deputies caught the four near Badger Canyon Road and Dallas Road, said Lt. Joe Lusignan.

The mail theft was reported around 5:40 p.m. Sunday. Witnesses said they saw several people in a red car taking mail out of mailboxes, Lusignan said.

[…] Deputies identified seven victims after finding bills, general mail and Netflix movies in the suspects’ car, Lusignan said. All four suspects were booked into the Benton County jail on suspicion of seven counts each of mail theft and identity theft.

COMMENTS: There was a story about mail theft in Kennewick just a couple weeks ago, too. This is really rampant in Washington right now, and mail theft is one of the primary ways criminals steal your identity. To protect yourself you need a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. The Mail Boss can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver like most other locking mailboxes on the market. To find the Mail Boss in the Bellingham area, go to your local Ace Hardware, True Value, Hardware Sales Inc., or in Kennewick, Fred Meyer and Kennewick Ranch & Home.

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Are SF Landlords Protecting Tenants From Identity Theft The Way They Should?
SF Appeal – 6/1/10

(SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA) “As part of the monthly bill-paying ordeal, I open my dreaded credit card statement, sigh, fold it back up, and proceed to recycle it. Immediately, my sharp-eyed mother scolds me and fetches the letter right back, tearing up the statement where my name, address, and account information was printed. Once an identity theft victim herself, my mother reminds me to take all precautions with my mail.

Such seemingly nuanced safety measures may be necessary amidst the rising crime of identity theft. According to a report filed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2008, California had the second-highest identity theft rate per capita, right behind Arizona. And in San Francisco alone, 86 cases of identity theft were investigated by the District Attorney’s Office last year.

Stealing mail from mailboxes and dumpsters are some of the most common ways your identity is stolen. Thieves search mailboxes for bank statements, checks, and tax forms and dig through trash looking for personal information. Just last year, police caught a man who stole nearly 2,000 letters from mailboxes in an attempt to open fake bank accounts and credit cards.

One of the main places mail theft is happening is in single room occupancy hotels (SROs), residential hotels for individuals with low income. Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, said “In these hotels everything gets delivered in one pile to the front desk. It’s easy for people to go through that mail if the person on staff doesn’t get it distributed quickly. That’s why we’re seeing an issue.”

The city passed an ordinance in 2006 requiring SROs to provide residents individual, secure mailboxes, but the Postal Service has stopped separating mail for SROs as of last January due to fiscal issues.

In response, the city attorney filed a lawsuit against USPS last May. According to Gullicksen, both sides are currently “trying to reach a settlement.” USPS spokesperson James Wigdel told the Appeal he could not make any comments on SROs because the lawsuit is ongoing as to date.

As for all other residential mailboxes, under the 2010 California Tenants Booklet, landlords are required to provide tenants with “a locking mailbox for each unit.” If you don’t know whether you have a secure mailbox, check if it follows these USPS regulations. If not, talk to your landlord or contact the post office directly. Gullicksen said that tenants whose landlords refuse to comply with an adequate mailbox “could possibly get a decrease in rent through the Rent Board.”

Although mail may be a popular source for identity theft, it isn’t the only way these identity thieves kick start their shopping sprees. To find out more about common identity theft outlets and how to protect yourself, check out this guide to identity protection from the SF district attorney’s office.”

COMMENTS: It is refreshing to see reporters discussing this issue candidly. Yes, locking mailboxes are a necessity in today’s world to protect against becoming a victim of identity theft. However, I imagine that those living in SROs do not have the money (or permanent residency, even) for it to make sense to invest in a locking mailbox, though, arguably, becoming a victim of ID theft could be more expensive. And yet, when the responsibility falls on someone else, in this case the landlords, they often don’t take the necessary precautions to ensure their tenants safety. After all, their primary concern is cost. Mail security in multi-unit housing is a pretty interesting topic, actually. We covered it in detail here, if you are interested. And, the piece was actually picked up by Condo Management!

‘Lousy criminal’ gets four years probation
Anchorage Daily News – 5/31/10

(FAIRBANKS, ALASKA) “A 22-year-old Russian national has been sentenced to four years of probation in connection with a mail theft ring in the Fairbanks area.

Vyacheslav Malyk of Delta Junction pleaded guilty in December to second-degree felony theft. […] Malyk is among eight people who were accused of stealing hundreds of mail items from neighborhoods outside of the city limits in 2008.

[…] Authorities say Malyk altered a $1,400 check to include his actual home address, then cashed the check at Walmart. At the sentencing hearing, state Superior Court Judge Robert Downes told Malyk he was a “lousy criminal.”

COMMENTS: I’m not surprised he’s only getting probation – the equivalent to a slap on the wrist. Judge Downes may have told Malyk he’s a “lousy criminal” but I doubt his feelings are hurt, since now he’s free to get back to stealing from hard-working Americans.

Jaded? Perhaps.

Likely? Very.

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country for 10 years now, and mail theft is one of the most common ways thieves can steal your information. You never even realize it’s missing until it’s too late!

To protect yourself, take the following three easy steps:

  1. Use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss (available at Spenard’s and Fred Meyer
    in Alaska) to secure incoming mail.
  2. Only send sensitive documents like checks from secure USPS boxes or, better yet, use online bill pay.
  3. Always shred sensitive documents, most of which come in your (unlocked???) mailbox, before discarding them.


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