This just in from the Clarion-Ledger: Hundreds of post office boxes in Jackson, Mississippi have been burglarized and the contents stolen. This article (reprinted below) just goes to show you that even people who take precautions to protect their mail still may be at risk for mail-identity theft.
Many people use a post office box when they are aware of the risk of mail theft, and yet do not want to go through the “hassle” of installing a locking mailbox at their residence. So they fork out a monthly fee, thinking their mail is safe in government locking mailboxes. Others use PO Boxes because their city or county requires it for mail delivery – they have no other option.
If you have a choice – use a PO Box or install a locking mailbox at your home – it is best to be informed. How “secure” are the government mailboxes? Clearly, not very. This article states that an undisclosed number of locking PO mailboxes were pried open and the locks broken. This is not surprising, as most locking mailboxes offer little to no real mail security.
Locking mailboxes should not be made of low quality materials such as plastic, aluminum, or thin-gauge steel. To provide real security, a locking mailbox must be made of heavy-gauge galvanized steel. In addition, they should have a feature such as this one to prevent prying or leveraged entry.
This story is sad for the victims of mail theft, who are now struggling to determine what was stolen from them and how to go about paying their bills on time, collecting missing checks, and most importantly, protecting their identities. All of this mess could have been avoided for them if they had taken their mail and identity security into their own hands, and installed high-security locking mailboxes at their homes.
For your reading pleasure, the original story reprinted below:
Fondren post office boxes burglarized
Postal inspectors are investigating a weekend break-in at Jackson’s Fondren Place Post Office that targeted a number of private boxes.
“Based on the damage, the locks were broken and the boxes were pried open,” said Doug Kyle, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Mississippi. The boxes are solid metal.
Kyle would not say how many boxes were burglarized, citing an ongoing investigation. Postal Inspector J.W. King did not return calls for comment.
No suspect has been named.
“We have notified those customers of the vandalism and break-in,” Kyle said. “Some of the boxes needed repair or to have the locks changed, which we’ve done.”
Mail theft and tampering are federal crimes. Once the investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office in Jackson.
“We can’t say what the maximum penalty is until we know what to charge them with,” spokeswoman Sheila Wilbanks said.
John Sumrall, owner of Capitol Medical Supply, said he wasn’t informed of the theft until his wife went to the post office Monday morning – his company’s heaviest mail day.
“There was no lock on our PO box,” Sumrall said. “The whole row of boxes had been hit.”
The only thing inside the boxes were notes directing the owners to pick up their mail behind the service counter. A postal worker also gave his wife a form to fill out, reporting what was missing.
“How the hell would we know what we lost?” Sumrall asked. “We had no clue what was in there.”
However, Sumrall said he usually has bills and checks sent to his box.
“We’re going to get all mixed up, not paying bills that are due because we didn’t get them, not knowing that we owed,” he said. Stolen checks also mean his company will lose payment for equipment it sold.
“If a customer issued a check, we’ll have a hard time getting the money out of them. It will probably delay us 60 to 90 days because they’ll have to cancel the check and cut a new one.”
Kyle said inspectors are not sure when the break-in occurred, though they believe there was a 36- to 44-hour window. The post office, located at 629 Fondren Place, is open until about lunchtime on Saturdays to employees who box mail. After they leave, the post office does not reopen until 8 a.m. on Mondays.
Kyle also said the Postal Service will provide counseling to customers concerned about identity theft as a result of the burglary.
“I can’t comment on specific security measures. We try to provide security at all of our facilities as much as it is feasible,” he said. “But if someone is determined to commit a crime like this, unless we have someone stationed there at all times, we’re not able to totally deter it.”
Meanwhile, the Jackson Police Department also is investigating several business burglaries at Fondren Corner that happened over the same weekend.
“One of them was Sneaky Beans,” Precinct 4 Cmdr. Kenneth Goodrum said. “They got hit Monday morning. Somebody broke in their front door window, went in and took a TV. It was discovered by a patrol officer working his beat.”
Goodrum said there is no evidence so far of connecting the break-ins.
To comment on this story, call Kathleen Baydala at (601) 961-7262.