WARNING: There has been so much stinking mail theft all over the country this past week, we have to break this Mail Theft Monday into two posts, with the second installment coming tomorrow… on, err, Wednesday. For those who don’t have the time to read 11 pages of elaborate crime details and semi-complete “prevent identity theft” recommendations, here is the Cliff Notes version:
There are a bunch of drug addicts and low-life scum… tens of thousands of them… all across the country. They have no jobs but they have habits to support so they are targeting unlocked mailboxes where they can find access to your hard-earned money. They use bank account statements, courtesy credit card checks, gift cards and whatever else they can find to steal your hard earned money and ruin your good credit (or, if you are like many Americans who have been hit hard in this economy, what’s left of it). Your best defense: a high security locking mailbox to stop crooks from stealing your incoming mail. Also, don’t send checks from your mailbox. It’s the 21st century, so look into online bill pay – it is quite secure! Lastly, keep on shredding! We know most of you already do this. But remember, most of what you shred comes in your mailbox, and you can’t shred it if the crooks get to it first.
Cease Online Diatribe.
Commence Mail Theft Monday, Part 1.
LBPD Warns Residents About Increase in Mail Theft Incidents
Everything Long Beach – 8/18/10
(LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA) “The Long Beach Police Department is warning residents regarding a rash of mail theft incidents, which have occurred throughout the city. Residents are being urged to take precautions and not place, leave or expose outgoing mail hanging from residential mailboxes.
Recently, fraud investigators have experienced a surge of mail theft reports where individuals are stealing mail that contains payments earmarked for creditors such as mortgage lenders, credit card companies, financial institutions and retail businesses.
In an effort to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud and/or mail and identity theft, residents are encouraged to practice the following recommendations:
- Do not write account, driver’s license or social security numbers on your checks
- If possible, satisfy payments on-line or at your creditor’s website
- Place or deposit outgoing mail in a mail slot located inside a postal facility or hand it to your neighborhood postal carrier
- When ordering checks from your financial institution, request the secure type that cannot be altered
- Do not send cash in the mail
- Retrieve mail from your mailbox promptly after delivery
If you discover that you have become a victim of mail fraud, here is what you should do:
- Report the incident to Long Beach Police Department
- File a complaint with the United States Postal Inspection Service
For more information concerning mail theft and what you can do to prevent it, please visit the United States Postal Inspection Service website.
If you should have any questions regarding mail theft or fraud-related crimes, please call the Long Beach Police Department’s Forgery/Fraud Detail at (562) 570-7330.”
COMMENTS: Good advice, for the most part. But “Retrieve your mail promptly”? Seriously? Many mail thieves are so brazen that they follow the postal trucks. With ID theft at an all time high, people need to be vigilant. Your unlocked mailbox is one of the easiest ways for thieves to steal your personal information for identity theft. They can find bank account numbers, credit card statements, courtesy checks, social security statements and more all in your mailbox. To prevent mail identity theft, use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss that cannot be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver. The Mail Boss is available at your local Ace Hardware or True Value.
Pickens Woman Pleads Guilty To Stealing Checks
WSPA7 – 8/17/10
(SPARTANBURG, SC) “Melinda Sue Cuddy, 35, of Pickens, pleaded guilty to mail theft conspiracy, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the release, Cuddy and her co-conspirators used dozens of checks stolen from mail boxes. Then she tried to get other people to cash them at local businesses.
In Jan. 2007, she tried to recruit a confidential source working with officers. She gave the source a stack of checks. Pickens County Deputies executed a search warrant and found stolen checks worth about $5,000. Cuddy will be sentenced later.”
COMMENTS: Check theft from unlocked mailboxes is quite common. To prevent mail identity theft (1) secure incoming mail with a lockable mailbox like the MailBoss; (2) never send checks or other sensitive mail from an unlocked mailbox – bring them to the post office or use online bill pay; and (3) always shred sensitive documents (most of which come in your unlocked mailbox) before discarding them. These three easy steps will go a long way in reducing the likelihood that you are victim to identity theft, the fastest growing crime in the United States.
Woman charged with mailbox tampering
Daily Comet – 8/17/10
(HOUMA, LOUISIANA) “A woman accused of rifling through mailboxes along Shrimpers Row Saturday was jailed the same day on multiple charges of theft.
Debra Ann Adams, 55, 125 Bobtown Circle, is charged with 14 counts of theft less than $300, possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.
Terrebonne Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a woman in khaki clothing walking down the road, opening mailboxes and trashing the contents. An estimated 20 mailboxes were involved.
Residents reported mail on the ground and finding mail addressed to neighbors in their boxes. Based on witnesses’ information, officers found Adams at her house.
She was taken to the Terrebonne Parish jail, where she remains in lieu of a $500 bond.”
COMMENTS: The issue here is not that the woman was “opening mailboxes and trashing the contents.” Obviously she was looking for personal and financial information, quick cash or gift cards. Your mailbox offers a treasure trove of information for thieves looking to steal your identity. They may steal just a check or gift card, or much more. With the growing threat of mail identity theft, a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss is an essential first line of defense.
3 charged with stealing mail from Fla. mailboxes
Miami Herald – 8/17/10
(WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA) “Three people are charged with stealing credit and debit cards from Palm Beach County mailboxes and using them for identity and cash thefts.
Federal prosecutors said Monday four victims lost more than $200,000 combined. The ring operated in Wellington and other cities, stealing the cards and then using them to make cash withdrawals or large purchases at stores and restaurants. Some victims’ identities were also stolen.
Two of the three suspects are in custody pending a bail hearing next Monday. The third had not been arrested.
The charges include conspiracy, mail theft and aggravated identity theft. All three suspects face maximum 22-year prison sentences if convicted.”
COMMENTS: Often in the news you hear of criminals targeting mailboxes to steal check payments sent in the outgoing mail. In these cases, crooks steal a check, wash it, and fraudulently cash it. Most times the victim is out a few hundred dollars, but the bank generally covers this kind of check fraud. More dangerous is the kind of mail identity theft referenced here. When criminals steal your incoming mail they can obtain all sorts of personal identifying information including account numbers, credit card information and more. They can use this information to take you for thousands, leaving you with debts that you have to explain. Credit scores and good names are ruined, and the victims are left trying to clean up the mess.
To prevent mail identity theft, vigilance is key. People need to use a high security locking mailbox like the Mail Boss to secure incoming mail. Also, avoid sending checks or sensitive documents from an unlocked mailbox, and shred all sensitive mail before discarding it.
Byram woman arrested for allegedly stealing mail
WLBT3 – 8/16/10
(BYRAM, MISSISSIPPI) “A Byram woman is behind bars for allegedly stealing mail out of mail boxes.
Authorities say LaKeacha Johnson used stolen mail to get personal and financial information.
According to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, the 32-year-old woman electronically paid bills and made purchases using the victims’ bank accounts and routing numbers.
“Once she would determine someone had checks coming for credit card statements, she would go in the mailboxes, get that information and she was able to pay all of her utility bills on line,” said Lt. Jeffrey Scott, of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputies raided Johnson’s home on Torrence Cove in Byram Friday.
They seized a computer, personal mail, checks and credit cards belonging to several victims.
Scott said there are three known victims of this scam and likely many others.
Johnson is charged with false pretense and mail fraud and faces more charges.”
COMMENTS: First of all, Johnson was not very wise to use her victims’ info to pay her OWN utility bills. Most crooks just steal the account information and then sell it to others, or use accounts to make large untraceable purchases.
That said, your unlocked mailbox is a common place for criminals to obtain your personal information for identity theft. ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and to protect yourself you need to use a high security locking mailbox to keep others from stealing your mail.
The Mail Boss is a high security locking mailbox that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver, and is a good option for those who do not wish to leave their personal information out on the road for any passerby to steal.
(CENTRAL OHIO) “Investigators in Central Ohio are trying to figure out who has been going through and stealing mail from dozens of mailboxes. It’s happened in a number of counties.
“We chose to move to the country so we wouldn’t have to deal with crime, and now here it is, you know, right in our mailbox,” said Marilyn Hacquard.
Hacquard says something didn’t seen right when she found the mailbox outside her home in Rockbridge in Hocking County empty last Saturday. The next day, mail was left at her home by the sheriff’s office. Someone had found it along with others’ mail on the side of the road.
Some, including her niece’s wedding invitation, had been opened. She suspects someone was looking for money.
“There are worse things in life, I’m sure, but, you know, you feel violated. It’s a violation when someone steals your mail and looks at your personal pieces of mail,” said Hacquard.
Her mailbox is one of a dozen to be hit in Hocking County, and there have been similar cases of mail theft recently in Fairfield, Pickaway, Pike, Fayette and Ross counties.
Chillicothe police named Margaret Fearnow and Kelly Downing (a.k.a. Kelly Jamhour) as persons of interest, claiming they’ve altered stolen checks and cashed them.
“They’re finding mailboxes with the flags up, and they’re taking outgoing mail, and they’re searching for checks,” said Officer Bud Lytle with the Chillicothe police.
Police say the suspects have cashed the checks at a number of banks throughout Chillicothe in hopes of covering their tracks. Police say they have checks that Fearnow has signed and the persons of interest may be responsible for going through Hacquard’s mail as well.
“My neighbors have been calling, ‘Did you get your mail? Did you want me to get your mail?’ We can’t continue that so we’re going to have to take action in getting a locked box,” says Hacquard.
According to Chillicothe police, if you believe you have had a check stolen, first call the payee. If they haven’t received it when they should have, call the bank and put a stop on the check. Next, call police.”
COMMENTS: Mail theft is one of the most common ways that identity thieves obtain your personal information. They look for not only cash, gift cards and checks, but also bank statements, pre approved credit card offers, social security statements and more. Most people SHRED their sensitive documents before discarding them, so why leave them out in your unlocked mailbox for thieves to steal?
Use a high security mailbox like the Mail Boss that can’t be fished by hand or easily pried open with a screwdriver to protect against mail identity theft and safeguard your good name. The Mail Boss prevents thieves from stealing your personal information, and is available at your local Ace Hardware or True Value.
3 Charged In Alleged Wellington Mail Thefts – Authorities: Men Stole Credit, Debit Cards From Mailboxes
WPBF 3 – 8/16/10
(PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA) “Federal authorities said three South Florida men have been charged in an alleged scheme to steal credit and debit cards from Wellington residents.
Ricardo Penn, 47, of Wellington, and Jamaal Williams, 24, of Miami, appeared in federal court Monday on charges of conspiracy, mail theft, unauthorized use of access devices and aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, the men conspired to steal credit and debit cards from the mailboxes of Wellington residents so that they could make purchases and cash withdrawals from the accounts. The thefts occurred between August 2008 and July 2010.
Authorities said one victim lost more than $120,000, another victim lost more than $26,000, a third victim lost about $42,000 and a fourth victim lost about $17,000.
According to the arrest affidavit, the suspects sometimes bought multiple $500 money orders using the stolen cards and then cashed them. In other instances, large purchases were made at area stores and restaurants.
A third suspect, Dorian Cawley, 25, of Wellington, has also been charged but remains at large.
The suspects could be sentenced to up to 22 years in prison and could be forced to pay restitution if convicted on all four charges.”
COMMENTS: ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the country – over 10 million Americans were victims last year. Thieves target your unlocked mailbox to steal CC statements, bank account info, courtesy checks and more. In your mailbox they can find everything they need for ID theft.
To prevent mail ID 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. The Mail Boss locking mailbox protects your family and your good name.