Mail Theft Monday – 9/27/10

There has been such a plethora of mail identity theft this past week… best get right to it!

News of Record: Police Log
The Bulletin – 9/25/10

(BEND, OREGON) “[…] Bend Police Department: Theft — Mail was reported stolen at 4:36 p.m. Sept. 23, in the 400 block of Northeast Thurston Avenue.”

COMMENTS: Ace Hardware & Paint in Bend carries the Mail Boss locking mailbox – a true solution to mail identity theft prevention.

Cahokia mom and son sentenced for stealing mail in Highland
News-Democrat – 9/25/10

Cahokia mother and son sentenced for mail theft
Post-Dispatch – 9/25/10

COMMENTS: Mail theft is a federal offense, yet I bet these two won’t even serve their full sentences! And there are plenty more crooks where these two came from. ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the US, and criminals target your unlocked mailbox to obtain your personal sensitive information. Vigilance is key, and the best defense is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver.

Counterfeit Check Ring Broken Up In Abilene: Two People Arrested, A Third On The Run
KTXS 12 – 9/24/10

(ABILENE, TEXAS) “Abilene Police have arrested two people and are looking for a third in connection with a counterfeit check ring.

Police arrested Victoria Garcia of Levelland and Gary Shane Clinton of Abilene for allegedly making counterfeit checks from mail stolen from a mailbox. Detectives recovered printers, scanners, copiers and some counterfeit money from a local hotel. Police say over one hundred pieces of mail were taken from a mailbox. Police are also looking for Nicholas Westbrook of Levelland in connection with the case.”

COMMENTS: These criminals are not just looking for checks to steal from the mail. They are also looking for sensitive documents to take and use for identity theft. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and one of the most common ways criminals obtain your person information is by ripping off your mailbox, where they can find bank account statements, credit card offers, checks, medical records and more. To protect yourself (1) use a high security locking mail box like the MailBoss to secure your incoming mail; (2) never send checks from an unsecured mailbox – use the post office or online bill pay; and (3) always shred or destroy sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to prevent dumpster diving.

Cahokia woman, son sent to prison for stealing U.S. mail
The Carmi Times – 9/24/10

(EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS) “Two Cahokia residents-mother and son-will be cooling their heels in federal prisons after they were sentenced in federal court here Friday for stealing mail.

[…] Felicia Johnson received a 24-month term of imprisonment following her conviction for theft of mail and possession of stolen mail. Marquan Johnson received a 12-month sentence of imprisonment following his conviction of the same offenses. Following release from imprisonment, each will serve a three-year term of supervised release.

The two have been in custody since March 19, when they were arrested by the Highland Police Department following receipt of a report of theft of mail by a resident of Highland. Both pleaded guilty to the charges on June 1, 2010. […]”

COMMENTS: Mail theft is a federal offense, and it is a relief to see this mother and son punished for their crimes. However, with the overcrowding of prisons, it is not probable they will serve their full terms, and without rehabilitation both will likely be out on the streets victimizing hard-working Americans in a matter of time.

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States, and criminals target your unlocked mailbox to obtain your personal sensitive information. Vigilance is key, and the best defense is a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver.

San Anselmo police warn about mail thefts
Contra Costa Times – 9/24/10

COMMENTS: More of the same ol’ same ol’ in northern California! Check out Goodman Building Supply or your local Ace Hardware to get the Mail Boss locking security mailbox and prevent mail theft!

Olympia pair face 214 counts of identity theft
The News Tribune – 9/24/10

(OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON) “Tellers at First Citizens Bank on College Street in Lacey called police Wednesday after a man tried to cash a stolen $470 check, prompting an investigation that led to a car trunk full of stolen mail belonging to 214 identity-theft victims, court papers state. [emphasis added]

The man, Joshua Lomsdale, 24, and his companion Pepper June Johnston, 28, both of Olympia, were arrested on suspicion of 214 counts of identity theft and three counts of forgery, court papers state.

[…] As Lacey police officers entered the bank, Detective Steve Brooks saw a silver-colored Honda speed out of the parking lot. Brooks detained the driver, later identified as Johnston, in a nearby parking lot. During a search of the car, Brooks found stolen license plates and methamphetamine. While searching Johnston’s purse, Brooks also found six to eight blank checks that had been stolen.

Johnston gave Brooks permission to search the trunk, and inside, “he found six credit cards and seven identification cards and driver’s licenses belonging to individuals besides Lomsdale and Johnston.” Also in the trunk were “many, many items of apparently stolen mail.”

Lomsdale later admitted “that Johnston and a friend ‘Jennifer’ go ‘mailboxing’ every night to steal checks and that Johnston has stolen checks from all over the place. Lomsdale stated that if he cashed the checks, Johnston agreed to give him half of the proceeds. He further stated that Johnston confirmed there were funds in the account by calling ahead,” court papers state.

[…] Lomsdale has been identified as part of another identity-theft investigation involving 27 suspects “identified cashing or using stolen/forged or counterfeit checks.” He also has been identified making fraudulent financial transactions on store surveillance video at the Lacey Walmart, officials say. That case involves an additional 200 identity-theft victims.

The investigation of Lomsdale and Johnston is ongoing, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Thompson said.”

COMMENTS: I hope these crooks go away for a long time! Mail Boss is locally owned and operated in Washington, and we strive to provide a real solution to the growing threat of mail identity theft. With the high security MailBoss locking mailbox, you thwart would-be identity thieves who target your mailbox to steal sensitive personal information. Don’t be a victim of identity theft! Get the Mail Boss locking security mailbox today.

3 sentenced in mail-fraud scheme
The Washington Post – 9/24/10

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) “A federal judge sentenced the latest of eight defendants Thursday in a mail and identity theft ring that stole more than $340,000 worth of checks from residential mailboxes in Northwest Washington and two downtown law firms from 2007 until April 2008. [emphasis added]

Lisa Davis, also known as Lisa Davis Locke, 45, of the 1800 block of Second Street NW, and Terry Locke, 40, of the 800 block of Euclid Street NW were sentenced to five and three years in prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates of the District.

Alicia Davis, 23, of the 1800 block of Second Street NW, received probation, said U.S. Attorney for the District Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Daniel S. Cortez, inspector-in-charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington division.

Authorities said that under Davis’s direction, suspects stole mail from more than 50 recipients to find checks and information such as Social Security numbers. [emphasis added] Targets included the Venable and Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal law firms.”

COMMENTS: Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and stealing mail is, according to everyone except the USPS, one of the most common ways criminals obtain your personal information. To prevent identity theft, use a high security locking mailbox that can’t be easily violated like the Mail Boss. You don’t just throw your bank account statements and credit card offers in the trash to prevent dumpster diving, so why would you leave them in your mailbox for anyone to steal?

Women charged with mail theft after arrest in Cottage Grove
Hastings Star Gazette – 9/24/10

(COTTAGE GROVE, MINNESOTA) “Two women were charged with mail theft after a Cottage Grove man spotted them while walking his dog and called police.

Chelsea J. Johnson, 30, of Maplewood, and Wanda L. Warden, 31, of South St. Paul, were seen going through mailboxes on Timber Crest Drive in Cottage Grove, according to the Washington County District Court Complaint.

Police responded to the area, and saw 10 mailboxes from 6610 Timber Crest Drive to 6642 Timber Crest Drive and four mailboxes from 6600 Timber Crest Drive to 6624 Timber Crest drive were open, according to the complaint.

Police stopped a car that fit the caller’s description near 70th Street and Granada Avenue, and found Johnson and Warden inside, according to the complaint. Officers found various mail, not addressed to the car’s occupants, including mail from St. Paul and Woodbury, the complaint says. [emphasis added]

The women were arrested, and interviewed. Warden told police it was Johnson’s idea to steal mail, the complaint says. She said that Johnson drove the car while she pulled the mail out of the boxes.

After their arrest, police found a medicine case containing suspected methamphetamine and a glass pipe that appeared to have the drug’s residue on it in Johnson’s purse, the complaint says.

Johnson did not give a statement, the complaint says.

Warden is charged with two counts of mail theft, which each carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Johnson also was charged with aiding and abetting mail theft, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison and $5,000 in fines; mail theft, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and $5,000 in fines; fifth-degree drug possession, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines; and driving after revocation, which has a maximum sentence of 90 days in prison and $1,000 in fines.

Both women appeared in court on Sept. 23, and have jury trials scheduled in December.”

COMMENTS: I would venture to guess that most if not all of the mail thefts in St. Paul and Woodbury went unnoticed, as most people do not realize when their mail has been stolen. This supports the argument that mail theft is grossly under-reported. Mail theft is a much more serious threat than anyone realizes. In your mailbox thieves can find bank account statements, credit card numbers, medical bills with your social security number, and more. To protect your identity, you must secure your mail, and that means using a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that cannot be easily violated by would-be identity thieves.

Authorities seeks help from public in string of crimes
The Joplin Globe – 9/24/10

(GIRARD, KANSAS) “The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department is requesting public help in investigating a string of property crimes in recent days, according to a release from Sheriff Sandy Horton.

The release states that the department has investigated or been called to assist with four investigations into mail theft, property damage, and burglary in the past two days.

On Wednesday, deputies and Pittsburg police investigated reports of mail theft at five residences from 200th Street north of Kansas Highway 126 and the north county road areas. […]

Authorities said they are asking that anyone with information about any of the crimes to call the sheriff’s department at 620-724-8274.”

COMMENTS: This story should underscore the need for greater security with our mail. We all routinely shred or burn sensitive documents like credit card statements, bills, documents with account numbers, social security numbers, etc. or at least we do not just simply throw them in the trash. Then WHY do we receive them in an unlocked mailbox? Thieves target your mailbox to steal information for identity theft – it happens ALL the time in big cities, suburbs and rural areas alike. It is a growing problem and everyone should take precautions to protect themselves! That includes, first and foremost, a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss. In addition, do not send checks from your unlocked mailbox – bring them to the post office or use online bill pay.

Warning: Mail and check theft
San Anselmo-Fairfax Patch – 9/23/10

(SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA) “The San Anselmo Police Department is warning residents along Greenfield Avenue to be on the lookout for the theft of mail and checks from mailboxes on the street. The suspects in the thefts have cashed and used checks in the stolen mail.

On Aug. 1, outgoing mail was stolen from a mailbox on Greenfield Avenue, according to police. In this incident, the suspect stole outgoing mail containing checks from a resident’s mailbox. The suspect then removed the checks and used a process known as whitewashing to remove the names and amounts from the checks, said police. The suspect then cashed the checks under a different name and amount.

On Wednesday, according to police, outgoing mail was stolen from a residential mailbox on the 300 block of Greenfield Avenue. The discarded mail was located on Calumet Avenue within an hour of the report. Several checks had, again, been removed from the envelopes, but because the mail was recovered quickly, the resident was able to stop payment on the checks.

To decrease the possibility of identity theft or fraud, the police are advising residents to:

  • Not place outgoing mail in your personal mailbox
  • Not leave mail in your mailbox overnight
  • Take all outgoing mail to a drop box or the post office

Notify the Police Department if you have any tips regarding these incidents or see any suspicious activity, by calling 258-4610.”

COMMENTS: Yes, residents should be concerned about the theft of checks from outgoing mail. Criminals can wash these checks and cash them fraudulently, but usually it’s a one-time thing that’s resolved fairly easily.

The bigger concern should be over securing incoming mail. Your residential mailbox offers thieves a wealth of sensitive information such as bank account numbers, credit card statements, medical bills with social security numbers and more. They can then use these documents for identity theft, and if you are a victim it can be a nightmare to resolve.

Mail identity theft is quickly growing, and it is of the utmost importance to protect your incoming mail with a high security locking mailbox. The Mail Boss by Epoch Design cannot be fished by hand nor pried open easily, and offers a formidable defense to stop mail identity theft.

Man Charged With Stealing Mail: Suspect Had Been Evicted From Neighborhood
WXII 12 – 9/23/10

(IREDELL COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA) “An Iredell County man swiped mail out of several boxes at a mobile home park, Iredell County Sheriff Phil Redmond said Thursday.

Redmond said residents at the park called police and detectives said they traced the stolen mail to a former resident, 31-year-old Jerry Paul Sigmon.

Redmond said Sigmon was a former resident was evicted from his home.

Sigmon was charged with 28 counts of misdemeanor larceny, three counts of larceny of a chosen action, financial card theft and financial card fraud.

Redmond said federal authorities are also considering charges since stealing mail is a federal crime.

Sigmon was being held on an $8,500 bond.”

COMMENTS: Many times authorities warn that criminals target mailboxes in affluent areas, but in low-income areas residents tend to believe they are immune from the threat of mail theft. Not so! Mail theft happens across the country in big cities and small towns alike. Criminals do not discriminate, preying on wealthy and the poor. As long as they can steal sensitive personal information, they benefit, either by selling the information for cash, trading it for drugs, or using it when possible for identity theft. A high security locking mailbox is essential to prevent mail theft and protect your identity.

Man charged with stealing mail
Statesville Record and Landmark – 9/23/10

(STATESVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA) “A Statesville man faces several counts of stealing mail from homes in eastern Iredell County.

Jerry Paul Sigmon, 31, of Statesville was charged with 28 counts of misdemeanor larceny, three counts of larceny, financial card theft and financial card fraud.

A number of residents living off River Hill Road called the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office over the weekend and reported mail was taken from their mailboxes.

Detective Sgt. John Adams was assigned to the cases.

After talking to the victims and the witnesses Adams was able to receive information about mail being found at a residence on Ellis Road, said Iredell Sheriff Phil Redmond.

Adams spoke with the landlord of the mobile home park and other witnesses that were at the address and was able to recover the mail and identify a suspect

Witnesses told Adams that Sigmon used to live at the address until he was evicted.

He talked with Sigmon’s landlord and was able to confirm that he did live at the Ellis Road address.

Adams located Sigmon at his new address and got a statement from Sigmon about his involvement in the thefts, Redmond said.

Sigmon indicated he was taking the mail in the hopes of finding credit cards to use to pay bills, Redmond said.

So far, he said, there is no indication any stolen cards were used.

Federal postal authorities are also involved in the case and federal charges may be filed.

Sigmon’s bond was set at $8,500.”

COMMENTS: This guy might not be the brightest crayon in the box if he’s looking for credit cards in the mail to use to pay his bills. That, obviously, would be easily traceable to him. The more savvy mail-identity thieves simply use for personal information and account information that they then use fraudulently for identity theft. They can create fake IDs from your information, using your name and address with their picture. Then they can access your accounts without being easily tracked. Anyway, the best defense against these crooks is to secure your mail with a high quality locking mailbox like the MailBoss that can’t be fished by hand or pried open with a screwdriver.

San Ramon police search Union City location in connection with mail theft cases
Contra Costa Times – 9/22/10

(UNION CITY, CALIFORNIA) “San Ramon police served a search warrant in Union City this morning,looking for evidence in connection with identity and mail theft in San Ramon.

Police were in the 34000 block of Perry Road in Union City looking for evidence in a home at about 11:20 a.m. Members of the SWAT team also were present for safety reasons, said San Ramon Police Lt. Dan Pratt.

Police took some items from the home, but no one was arrested.

In the last several weeks, San Ramon police have received reports of people looking into mailboxes and mailboxes being forcibly opened [emphasis added]. There have been checks stolen from the mail and identity theft reported.

Police said they have identified some suspects which lead to the search warrant.

The investigation is ongoing.”

COMMENTS: Thieves target unlocked mailboxes as well as low-security locking mailboxes to steal personal information to use for identity theft. These thieves will not stop and your mail will not be safe until you take the necessary measures to protect yourself. A high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver is a must with the prevalence of mail identity theft.

Tip From Alert Citizen Helps Des Moines Police Break Major Mail Theft Operation: Alert citizens who observe and report suspicious behavior are the right arm of law enforcement
The Waterland Blog – 9/22/10

(DES MOINES, WASHINGTON) “In August, a man heard an alarm from a Burien business, saw someone running away with a cash register, and called 9-1-1. That led to the arrest a short time later of the “smash-and-grab” burglar.

Now the action of a citizen, curious about unusual activity near Beach Park, resulted in the arrest by Des Moines Police officers of two suspects who later confessed to running a major mail theft and apartment check theft operation.

[…] Federal law enforcement agents have been notified of the mail theft, and the pair could face federal charges as well.

Collins said the first report of check thefts was made on Sept. 1 when the manager of an apartment complex in the 23500 block of 16th Ave. S. notified police that he had received no rent payments. The manager said he normally gets 120 to 130 checks and money orders for rent – dropped by tenants in a deposit box in the office wall – on the first of each month. He told police this was “very unusual;” that it had never happened before.

Police found a sticky substance on both the outside and inside of the deposit box that apparently was used by the thief to fish out checks and money orders with a string.

Collins added that while the officers were still there, “the manager brought to their attention a money order dated Aug. 3 from a tenant who dropped it off in the box, but later received notice from the landlord that he had not paid his rent.”

That money order, which was returned after it had been cashed, “apparently had the apartment name washed off and a personal name written in.” With that, police investigators knew they probably had the name of the thief or an alias.

[…] The break police were looking for came from an unlikely source on Sept. 14 “when a citizen at Des Moines Beach Park who was combing the beach with his metal detector sees a male and a female coming out of the bushes above the beach.”

It was still before 8 a.m. and “he thought it was an unusual area for activity at this time of day. Then he heard the man say, ‘Let’s go. There’s nothing here,’” Collins continued.

After the couple got on bicycles and rode away, the man went into the bushes to check things out. There he found a pile of mail there. Despite the fact the ground was wet from an overnight rain, the mail was dry.

The citizen gathered up the mail, took it directly to the police department, and also provided officers with descriptions of both the man and the woman.

Police went to Beach Park, found the couple who matched the descriptions and were on bicycles still in the area, and detained them. When the male suspect gave his name, “officers recognized the name as the same as was on the altered checks,” Collins said.

The man “made it clear” during the police interview “that they were out stealing money that morning.”

“Both confessed” to stealing mail from mailboxes, to burglary for unlawful entry by using a line to gain access to drop boxes and remove rent checks and money orders, and to the theft of checks for altering and depositing them.”

Collins said the couple, who gave an Auburn address but said they were transients, directed officers to a motel room on Pacific Highway S. in Kent “where they recovered more stolen mail and stolen checks, credit cards, checking account information, and a laptop computer and printer with files and stolen account information.”

Police, who also found chemicals for altering checks in the motel room, turned the stolen mail over to the U.S. Postal Service.

“These two were very busy,” he declared. “This was not an isolated instance by any means. They had a system they were running and they were doing a lot of damage. We don’t know yet how many victims there are and the total loss.”

Later in the morning of Sept. 14, two suspects for a burglary in the 23600 block of 16th Ave. S. were arrested. A third got away. Collins said that case remains under investigation, but he “observed a lot of mail boxes open, rows of mailboxes open” in this residential area. […]”

These cases point to two important crime-prevention actions that citizens can take, Collins said.

The first is the advisability for people with outside mail boxes to install security mail boxes to curb mail theft. [emphasis added]

And, Collins said, “Don’t be afraid to call the police if you see someone at a mailbox that does not belong to them. If we’re not tied up on a call, we can get there as soon as possible and check it out.””

COMMENTS: Criminals target mailboxes to steal information for identity theft. Unlocked curbside mailboxes are the easiest targets, but they also target low-security locked mailboxes or drop-boxes. Any mailbox that can be fished or pried open with a screwdriver is a treasure trove for a would-be identity theft.

A high security locking mailbox is a must to prevent the nation’s fastest growing crime – identity theft. Your mailbox contains bank account statements, credit card numbers, courtesy checks, social security statements and more. Keep this information out of criminals hands with a high security mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver!

Also, never send sensitive mail or checks from an unlocked mailbox. Bring them directly to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure. Last, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.

New Boston Police Investigate Mail Thefts: Mail Opened, Discarded in Several Neighborhoods
WMUR 9 – 9/21/10

“Police in New Boston are investigating a rash of mail thefts in some neighborhoods in the town.

Investigators said about 20 people on Riverdale, North Mast, Twin Bridge and Middle Branch roads have been the victims of mail theft.

Thieves have been taking mail out of mailboxes, opening it and dumping it, police said. Investigators said they believe the thieves were looking for credit information, money or other items of value.

Police urged residents to report any suspicious activity and try to determine if they are missing any mail.”

COMMENTS: This is not an issue of vandalism or teenagers ‘messing with your mail’ – this is mail theft and it often leads to identity theft. Criminals target your unlocked mailbox to steal credit card statements, bank information, courtesy checks, social security numbers, and more. To stop mail-identity theft, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. You shred sensitive documents that come in the mail before discarding them, so don’t leave them unprotected in your mailbox!

Two Metro Women Charged with Mail Theft
ABC 5 – 9/21/10

(COTTAGE GROVE, MINNESOTA) “Two women are charged with stealing mail out of mailboxes in Washington and Ramsey Counties.

Washington County prosecutors charged Wanda Warden of South St. Paul and Chelsea Johnson of Maplewood with two counts, each, of mail theft.

Witnesses told police they spotted the two women driving through a Cottage Grove neighborhood on September 12, taking mail out of mailboxes. An officer spotted at least 16 opened mailboxes in the neighborhood.

Police pulled Warden and Johnson over in Cottage Grove. A search of the van they were in turned up dozens of pieces mail, with addresses in Cottage Grove, St. Paul, and Woodbury.

Warden told police Johnson drove the van while Warden removed the mail from mailboxes.

After the women were arrested, police say they also found methamphetamine in Johnson’s purse. She’s also charged with fifth-degree drug possession.

Each mail theft charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. ”

COMMENTS: Criminals target mailboxes where they can find a treasure trove of information to use for identity theft – credit card statements, bank account numbers, courtesy checks, and even utility bills! If they’re lucky they may find a replacement debit or credit card! Mail theft is one of the most common ways criminals obtain your personal information for ID theft. Use a high security locking mailbox to keep your information out of thieves hands. Also, never send sensitive mail from an unlocked mailbox. Bring it to the post office or use online bill pay – it’s more secure! Also, always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mailbox!) before discarding them.

Beware of Mail Theft
Geer Farmhouse Blog – 9/21/10

(DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA) “This week there have been multiple reports of mail theft and tampering on the PAC3 (Partners Against Crime District 3) mailing list. I’ve had some experience in this area, so I thought that I’d share. I also noticed some opened mail discarded on the sidewalk down the street this morning.

When we lived in California somebody stole the outgoing mail out of our mail box. Included in this was a bill payment with a check. Late that afternoon while I was at work I received a call from my bank. A supervisor was calling me from a branch in Downtown San Jose (we lived in neighboring Santa Clara), asking if I had written a check to a woman for a large sum – I don’t recall the amount but I think it was over $300. I did not recognize the name, and knew that I had not written that check. […]

I immediately drove to the bank branch and met with the supervisor that I had spoken with. She said that a woman came to the branch to try to cash the check. The thieves, the very same day that they stole the check, had washed it with chemicals (likely acetone, such as nail polish remover or isopropanol, aka rubbing alcohol) to remove all of the pen ink except for my signature. They then wrote the check out to a different name and for a much higher amount. They presented a drivers license as identification that clearly was not the person standing in front of them. While this issue was investigated by a supervisor, the thief ran out of the bank. […]

There are a variety of actions that you can take to reduce the chance that your checks will be stolen and washed.

  • Use a gel ink pen to write your checks, as the ink is not able to be washed by the most commonly used chemicals.
  • Use checks that have an embedded security strip that will change color if washed.
  • Never put your outgoing mail in your mail box. Hand it to your mail carrier, or take it to a post office.
  • Use a locking mail box to protect your incoming mail. [emphasis added]
  • Stop mail delivery when you are on vacation.
  • Don’t use checks. Pay bills online instead. I can’t remember the last time that I wrote a check.

If you are even the unfortunate victim of mail theft or tampering, be sure to report the theft to the police (so that they can be aware of the problem and increase patrols if needed) and the United States Postal Inspection Service. At minimum, close your affected bank accounts and open new bank accounts. You may also wish to change banks entirely.”

COMMENTS: Durham is a high crime area, but mail theft is a problem across the country! Using a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver is pretty much a necessity, unfortunately, in the world today.

Authorities investigate elaborate counterfeit, ID theft ring
Marin Independent Journal – 9/20/10

(MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA) “Authorities are investigating an elaborate counterfeiting operation involving stolen mail from throughout Marin County, credit card numbers of more than 200 people, counterfeit cash, fake checks, printers and laptop computers.The operation came to light Aug. 27, when Novato police Officer Blake Dunbar checked up on a parolee […]. “They were right in the middle of making fraudulent checks, counterfeit money, credit cards and drivers’ licenses,” Fahy said. “That officer being very proactive in his job has probably saved hundreds of victims their identity theft, and I don’t know how many thousands of dollars.”

[…] The computer crimes task force, a five-county agency with investigators from throughout the region and managed by Marin District Attorney Ed Berberian, has taken over the investigation. The stolen mail came from Mill Valley, San Rafael and Novato.

“Most of those mailboxes were in rural areas with high-dollar property values,” Fahy said.

He said the identities of several of the Marin mail theft victims were used to make fake checks that were cashed in Sonoma County. […]There was also mail stolen from an investment company that netted the suspects account information from more than 100 people, Fahy said.

Typically, identity thieves steal mail to obtain names, bank statements, credit cards, car registrations, driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers and anything else that will aid them in creating a fake identity, Fahy said. They use a computer program to print blank checks, then affix the identity theft victims’ names and bank account numbers to the check.

“It looks professional,” he said. “It looks like a bank check.”

The suspects arrested in Novato had created fake drivers’ licenses by matching photos of themselves with other people’s names, Fahy said. He said fraudulent checks were cashed in Rohnert Park using fake drivers’ licenses.

During the August arrest, police confiscated $1,600 in counterfeit cash. Fahy said chemicals had been used to wash the amounts off of $1 bills and then the bills were reprinted to look like $50 and $100 bills. Police also seized an unspecified amount of an unidentified controlled substance.

Fahy said the best way to prevent identity theft is to lock mailboxes, pick up new personal checks at banks, open a post office box where financial information can be sent and keep computer passwords in a secure place. [emphasis added]

“ID theft is so widespread that we have to protect ourselves,” he said. […]”

COMMENTS: Great article on the mail identity theft ring in Marin County! It’s refreshing to see authorities provide sound advice to residents – namely to lock up the mailbox to prevent mail theft. Often they advise to use a paper shredder, but don’t make the connection between the paper shredder and what comes in the curbside mailbox.

Many mail ID theft stories focus on the cyber tech ID theft crimes, but research indicates the majority of identity theft is perpetuated via low-tech methods: stolen wallets/purses, mail and trash. In contradiction to claims by USPS that mail theft is exceedingly rare, it is actually grossly under-reported because most victims do not realize when their mail has been stolen! In fact, Better Business Bureau estimates that mail theft is the 5th most common method of ID theft.

As is obvious from this story (and hundreds of others like it across the nation), criminals target mailboxes to steal credit card statements, courtesy checks, bank account information, etc. As such, a high security locking mailbox is an essential element of comprehensive identity theft prevention.

One important note: Not all locking mailboxes are secure. Many thieves are now targeting cluster boxes or low-quality locking mailboxes that can be easily pried open with a screwdriver – there are many recent examples of this happening in the news.

The Mail Boss is a high-security locking mailbox that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. It offers real mail security and identity theft prevention, and is available in Marin County at Ace Hardware and True Value stores.

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