Mail Theft Monday – Hello, February!

Can you believe it’s already February 1, 2010? We can’t! Geez, the days are just flying by. Before you know it, it will be time for some spring cleaning!

This year, spring cleaning around your home should also include measures to ensure the security of your family, like a security locking mailbox for identity theft prevention. A high-quality secure mail box will greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim of mail theft, one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation.

Don’t think mail-identity theft is a serious growing problem? Just take a look at the latest, across the nation:

West Seattle Crime Watch: More mail theft? Plus, break-in reports
West Seattle Blog – 1/31/10

(WEST SEATTLE, WASHINGTON) “First – for the second time in nine days, there’s a report of suspected stolen mail found in the Arbor Heights area. Last one was discussed here on January 22nd; the e-mail we received today says:

I was walking my dog in Arbor Heights a short time ago when I noticed a pile of soggy mail behind some shrubs on SW 102nd St. at 38th Ave SW [map]. The mail was unopened, but all of it was financially related: Social Security, tax forms, credit cards. The addresses were all on a single block of 39th Ave SW between 102nd & 104th. I’m speculating that the thief was interrupted somehow and either dumped the evidence, or stashed it for later. This would be prime time for mail theft, with all of the tax forms going out. I re-delivered all of the mail, not thinking until later that perhaps I should have notified police instead.

Mail theft is a federal crime. The US Postal Service has links for reporting it as well as tampering and fraud – go here. […]”

COMMENTS: You (the consumer) are not responsible for getting your locking mail box approved by the USPS. The manufacturer of the locking mailbox is responsible. If the box says “USPS approved” you can use it as a replacement for a standard curbside mailbox, provided you follow the enclosed instructions for USPS installation height specs, etc.

Mail identity theft is at an all-high nationwide. It is one of the PRIMARY ways identity thieves gain access to your personal sensitive information. Think of everything that comes in your mailbox – would you know if it never arrived? How long would it take for you to realize…?

Also, think about this: Do you just THROW AWAY your bills in the trash without shredding them or tearing them up? ALL the stuff you shred.. it comes in your mailbox. It’s EASIER (and less disgusting) for thieves to take from your mailbox than the dump!!

People have GOT to start locking their mailboxes to protect their identities. It’s a sad but true reality in today’s world. The best protection is a high security locking mailbox that CANNOT be pried open or fished by hand.

Junction True Value in West Seattle has some good options, including the “Mail Boss” locking security mailbox (our company, based in Redmond) that can’t be pried open. Happy to answer questions, as I keep tabs on mail identity theft across the nation.

Arrest made in State Street mail thefts
New Haven Register – 1/29/10

(NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT) “Mail has been disappearing for months on upper State Street and merchant Sally Goldson has been watching. So Wednesday, when she saw a man who had been “lurking” in the neighborhood for weeks take mail from a house across the street, she got in her car and followed him as her husband relayed their location to police.

Antoine Patterson, 37, of Lombard Street, now faces charges of criminal trespassing and sixth-degree larceny. Federal charges also are possible in mail theft, according to U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Maureen Marion.

Goldson was in her business, Sunrise Deli, Wednesday afternoon when she saw the alleged postal heist. “We’ve been watching people come over here and steal the mail for months,” she said, first noticing it in December, not long after she and her husband opened their business at State and Pearl streets.

Police spokesman Officer Joe Avery said police had received “a couple dozen” complaints of mail theft in the area in recent months. Postal Inspector Bernadette Lunbohm confirmed Thursday that inspectors were working the case with New Haven police.

Two weeks ago, Goldson said, she saw another person, this time a man, steal mail from a house. He first pretended to ring the doorbell and acted exasperated when no one answered. She said she called police, but the man was gone before officers arrived. According to Goldson, the same man returned Thursday and did the same thing at 815 State St., but this time Goldson got into her car and followed him.

When police apprehended Patterson on Humphrey Street, he denied taking anything, but police found two hair sticks, a polishing cloth and Netflix DVDs connected to the house, police said.

A third-floor tenant at the house reported to police that he and his girlfriend had been having their mail stolen regularly, including other Netflix envelopes and a credit card that later was used to make online purchases, police said. When a postal inspector interviewed Patterson, he admitted taking the mail, but denied ever doing it before.

Goldson, back at the deli Thursday, said she will continue watching the neighborhood. “We’re right in front over here, so we see pretty much everything.””

COMMENTS: Good for Goldson taking matters into her own hands. You often can’t rely on the police or the USPIS to follow up on these matters. That’s ONE less mail thief out there looking to steal your identity. Unfortunately for hard working Americans, there are plenty more scumbags out there.

Residents need to be vigilant about protecting their mail and their identities which includes:

  1. Protect incoming mail with a high security locking mailbox that can’t be fished by hand or pried with a screwdriver. A good option is the Mail Boss, available at your local hardware store, True Value or Ace Hardware.
  2. Protect outgoing mail by never leaving sensitive mail in an unlocked mailbox. Use a Blue USPS box.
  3. Use a paper shredder to destroy all sensitive information before discarding it – note, this is a LAST STEP, not a solution in and of itself. You MUST secure your sensitive mail at its source: the mailbox!!

Four arrested at Alamo house in ID theft case
San Jose Mercury News – 1/28/10

(ALAMO, CALIFORNIA) “Four people were arrested on suspicion of identity theft and other charges Thursday after detectives from several agencies recovered a stash of stolen mail from an Alamo house. The search warrant […] came after a two-month investigation by the Martinez Police Department, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office and the Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Inside the house police found stolen mail, credit card numbers and other ID cards. The house’s owner, 44-year-old Robert Brosamer, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance. Resident Jacinda Dauber, 27, was arrested on suspicion of identity theft and possession of stolen property. Resident Kelle Jagger, 32, was arrested on suspicion of identity theft. A guest, 30-year-old Mark Hetland, was taken into custody on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and on three warrants for his arrest. All four were booked at the County Jail in Martinez. Child and Family Services is assisting with three children, ages 3, 11 and 15, who live at the house, police said.

Investigators Thursday were trying to identify the victims of identity theft.”

COMMENTS: These is a clear cut case of criminals working as a team using stolen mail to perpetuate identity theft. Indeed, mail theft is one of the most common ways crooks find sensitive information used to commit identity fraud and theft. And again, there is a strong mail-identity theft / drug connection.

The victims of this identity theft ring may not even yet be aware that their information has been compromised, as is common when mail has been stolen. If they are lucky, the police caught these crooks before too much damage was done. More likely, however, their information has already been passed among other crooks, and the victims will spend excessive time and money trying to restore their good names.

Milton Woman Sentenced on Fraud Charges
WOWK 13 – 1/26/10

(HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA) “A Milton woman was sentenced in Federal Court in Huntington on mail fraud charges. […] Barbara Rush, 54, of Milton was sentenced to six months home confinement, five years probation, and 300 hours of community service. Rush pleaded guilty in October 2009, to wire fraud, mail fraud and access devise fraud […].

Rush admitted she stole mail from a neighbor in Milton and applied for and used credit cards using the stolen identity, court officials said. […] From February 2008 to June 5, 2008, Rush took the names and other identification of two neighbors and applied for, and received credit cards which she had mailed to her residence. Rush activated the accounts and fraudulently bought merchandise totaling thousands of dollars […].”

COMMENTS: Rush is not going to serve any time for stealing the mail and subsequently the identity of her neighbors. This is a travesty for her neighbors, who will spend hundreds of hours in anguish trying to repair their credit and restore their good names. We hope the local residents take this as evidence that mail identity theft can indeed happen anywhere – even in little Huntington, West Virginia – and can be committed by anyone – even a neighbor. Ultimately, a high security locking mailbox is necessary to prevent mail identity theft, and is an easy to step towards achieving peace of mind.

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