Targeted neighbors’ unlocked mailboxes; charged with 18 counts of Aggravated Identity Theft
The Newhaven Register recently reported that a local man was arrested for running a serious identity theft operation targeting the neighborhood’s non locking mailboxes in Milford Connecticut.
The story, originally published here, is included below as one more example of mail identity theft that plagues American households nationwide, and to emphasize the need for a secure locking mailbox as a first line of defense against the epidemic of these crimes. [All bold below is added for editorial emphasis]
MILFORD — A 33-year-old local man was arrested this week for allegedly running a thriving identity theft operation that targeted his neighbors’ rural mailboxes.
Police said Mariusz Paliwoda used stolen mail to do everthing from obtaining a home equity line of credit to getting a Netflix DVD rental account.
Paliwoda of 344 W. Rutland Road is charged with several crimes relating to identity theft, including 13 counts of larceny, 18 counts of identity theft, six counts of illegal use of a credit card, five counts of receiving goods by illegal use of a credit card, credit card theft and fraudulent use of an ATM card, police said.
An eight-month investigation by Milford police and the U.S. Postal Service revealed Paliwoda allegedly took letters out of rural residents’ mailboxes and used the information he found to gain access to bank accounts, credit cards and ATM accounts, police said.
After indentifying Paliwoda as a suspect and executing a search warrant, police said they found mail from more than 100 potential victims.
Paliwoda allegedly victimized seven Milford residents and one Trumbull resident by taking out and using credit cards under their names. In one incident, Paliwoda was allegedly able to spend $10,000 using a home equity line of credit for someone else’s home, police said.
When police searched Paliwoda’s basement room in his parents’ house, they found several ATM and credit cards issued from banks and credit agencies using stolen information, according to several arrest warrant affidavits filed in Superior Court.
In addition to the credit cards, police found personal information about several area residents. Police found a credit card statement in Paliwoda’s room with the person’s telephone number at work, job title, age and Social Security number jotted down in handwriting, according to the arrest warrant. That person told police he did not know Paliwoda and never applied for the credit card. Paliwoda also had several people’s W-2 and 1099 tax forms, the affidavit states.
An “identity theft to-do list,” with people’s names and addresses, along with handwritten notes of the locations of vacant houses, was also found, according to the arrest warrant.
Police believe Paliwoda had credit cards and packages, including eight DVDs from a Netflix account under someone else’s name, sent to a vacant Milford home.
Police think they have identified and notified all the people who were victimized, said police spokesman Officer Vaughan Dumas. The more than 100 people whose mail was found at Paliwoda’s house have also been notified.
A complaint of identity theft from a Strathmore Avenue resident from December 2007 prompted the investigation, during which several other similar complaints surfaced from Henry Albert Drive, Wheeler’s Farm Road and West Rutland Road residents, police said.
The U.S. Postal Service aided the investigation by helping to identify and contact the victims, police said.
Paliwoda was arraigned at Superior Court in Milford Tuesday, where his bail was reduced from $60,000 to $25,000, according to court records. He remained in custody Wednesday afternoon in lieu of bail. His next court date is Sept. 9.
His defense attorney, Michael Hayes, could not be reached for comment.
Dumas said residents can protect themselves from identity theft by keeping a close eye on all banking activity, and having a reputable credit agency monitor their credit ratings. He also recommended residents use a mailbox that can be secured to keep potential identity thieves from getting their hands on sensitive information.
In this report, police recommend using “a mailbox that can be secured” (aka a locking mailbox) to ward off mail identity thieves. Ideally, homeowners will make this realization and invest in a security locking mailbox BEFORE they are victimized by the likes of this Milford man.
One final note… apparently Paliwoda was a former manager at Best Buy, according the this report from the Consumerist. Just goes to show you that not all mail identity thieves are sheisty looking characters that concerned residents could easily identify as potential criminals. All the more reason not to risk it and to get a locking mail box like the Mail Boss today!