Is Your Mailbox a Lure for Identity Theft?

Your mailbox may be the key to your personal fortune, and thieves know it. The Federal Trade Commission estimates 400,000 Americans have had their mail — and their identities — stolen.

“I called the post office and they said that there was mail that was delivered to my home on that Friday,” said Barbara, a mail theft victim who wanted her full name withheld.

“So, I contacted the police and made a report.”

Barbara then took her inquiry a step further, and decided to do some investigating of her own. She took out her handheld video camera and stationed herself in a window of her home to try to catch the thief stealing her mail on tape.

At first, Barbara’s enthusiasm got the better of her, and the video did not turn out as clearly as it could. But later that week she caught the thief in the act again.

“And sure enough, I got her stealing the mail,” Barbara said. “It doesn’t belong to her. It belongs to me!”

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 400,000 Americans last year had their mail stolen, and subsequently became the victims of identity theft. That was just a number to Barbara and some other residents of the neighborhoods around Cherry Hill, N.J., until they, too, became the victims of a mail thief.

“This thief was trying to steal my identity,” Barbara said. “And I was very angry. And I wanted to get this person, very badly.”

Secure your identity with a locking mailbox

A Thief Is Caught

Monica F., the woman who stole Barbara’s mail, did indeed get caught. She admitted that between February and June of last year, she stole credit cards, checks and mail from townspeople in and around Cherry Hill, N.J. She said she felt like she had no choice.

“I got desperate and didn’t know where to turn,” Monica told Good Morning America, speaking out for the first time. “So I did what I did. I just didn’t know where to turn.”

Police say that Monica cashed stolen checks, withdrew money from victims’ bank accounts and, on the very day Terri McCreesh buried her mother, stole and charged almost $400 on McCreesh’s credit card. “I feel like anybody could come along and take something of ours,” McCreesh said. “And we wouldn’t know about it. How long before we’d know about it? What could they do?”

Monica apologized for her crimes, saying she did it because her basement had flooded and insurance would not cover the thousands of dollars in damage.

“I know I was wrong,” she said crying. “I know I was wrong. I mean, I don’t even want to look at the camera. I’m so embarrassed. I knew every time I did it I was wrong. But at that time I was thinking, ‘Yeah, this is wrong, I shouldn’t do it, but I don’t know where else to turn.'”

In June, Monica was fined close to $2,000 and assigned to counseling in lieu of jail time.

The residents of the Cherry Hill neighborhood got off relatively easy, but having your mail and identity stolen can be financially catastrophic.

Crooks can phony up fake drivers’ licenses and credit cards to make thousands of dollars worth of purchases posing as you. A mail thief can even steal a check you’ve written, wash off the handwriting in a chemical bath, and write out a brand new check on your account.

It happened to Miami resident Patricia Read.

“I had written Sears a $13.72 check and that check came up as having been written $730,” Read said. “Not my handwriting or anything.”

Meanwhile, Monica says she realizes the seriousness of her crimes, and she’s sorry.

“It’s not worth it. I mean, you can go to jail. Or you could lose your freedom, you could lose friends, you could lose family,” she said. “You could, lose your self-respect.”

Mailbox Identity Theft Tips

Here are some suggestions to avoid having your ID stolen via your mail:

Don’t leave your mail in your home mailbox for the postman to pick up. Instead, take it to the post office. You can also get a locking mailbox, as Barbara did.

Study your bank and credit card statements to make sure all the charges make sense.

If you feel you are a victim of identity theft, call one of the three national credit bureaus immediately and put a fraud alert on your accounts. All you need to do is call one, and the other credit bureaus will be notified automatically. Call one of the following bureaus for help: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; Experian: 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289. Or you can go to: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/

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Mail fraud case highlights the risk of identity theft

Mail fraud case highlights the risk of identity theft

 Written by

The Desert Sun Editorial Board
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The massive mail fraud case brought against a Rancho Mirage woman and a Cathedral City man serves as a reminder that identity theft is a serious threat nowadays.

And it’s getting worse.

Tracy Lynn Cross, 39, and Joe Anthony Loera, 38, are charged with several counts of burglary, forgery, manufacturing and selling government IDs, and possession of a controlled substance. Held in the Indio jail, Loera is scheduled enter pleas today and Cross should do so on Friday.

You may be cautious enough to shred your discarded documents, but these two are accused of taping shredded mail back together. When deputies obtained a search warrant and went through their homes, they found laminating machines, printers, fake IDs and computers with software to reproduce checks. They’ve been convicted of similar felonies as far back as 1999.

Investigators believe they would copy names, account and routing numbers from legitimate checks and print their own checks.

The investigation began with a $5.89 check from an Indian Wells resident to the Gas Co. It was apparently intercepted, modified and cashed for $1,200.

The couple is accused of simply grabbing mail out of unlocked mailboxes. Police have identified at least 200 victims, many in the Coachella Valley and others from all over the state.

The National Crime Victimization Survey released in November by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics shows the number of identity theft victims in the U.S. increased 25 percent from 2005 to 2010, when an estimated 8.6 million Americans were victimized.

“Financial crimes are skyrocketing,” said Deputy Sean Patrick of the Palm Desert station. “It’s a lot easier to do financial crime than to rob people.”

The scope of this fraud was so big, investigators limited evidence gathering to October through December so prosecutors could move forward. But the case goes to 2008 and there are likely hundreds more victims.

While The Desert Sun applauds the good police work and understands the limitations of the force, this hardly seems fair to the other victims. They all deserve justice.

Also, the case shows the flaw in our justice system. It appears this couple has been pulling off this scam for more than 10 years.

Under California’s judicial realignment, if convicted they would serve time in county jail instead of state prison. It would be a real crime if they can’t serve their full sentences because of overcrowding.

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Women Accused Of Stealing Checks From Mailbox

Women Accused Of Stealing Checks From Mailbox

Pueblo County Pair Allegedly Stole, Used Checks

CHRIS LOVELESS
KRDO NewsChannel 13

POSTED: 11:10 pm MST January 8, 2012

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UPDATED: 11:19 pm MST January 8, 2012

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office
Jamie Kathleen Wetmore and Bree AgeeMore »

PUEBLO, Colo. — Two Pueblo women are accused of stealing checks from a mailbox, and then using the checks at local stores. 

Jamie Kathleen Wetmore and Bree Agee have been arrested. 

Agee is being held on a theft charge. Wetmore is accused of identity theft. 

The investigation started in December when the checks were stolen. 

There was a big break in the case when investigators learned that some of the stolen checks had been used at stores in Pueblo. Deputies were able to use surveillance video from those stores to identify two possible suspects. 

Deputies executed a search warrant on a home in the 1700 block of Morrison Ave. in Pueblo on January 6th. Items purchased with the stolen checks, fake Colorado I.D. cards, and fake checks were found inside the home, according to the sheriff’s office. 

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s office says the investigation is ongoing, and more arrests are likely.

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Watch out for tax scams

Watch out for tax scams

January 01, 2012 11:06 PM
Tax scam tips:
• Always check on the legitimacy of the tax preparation service you are going to use. Always use a licensed and established preparer or company.

• If you receive an email from any tax preparation software company, do not open them or click on any link. If you actually need an upgrade, go directly to the company’s secure site.

• Try never to leave any mail in your mailbox for an extended period of time.

• Use a locking mail box or a P.O. Box to ensure your mail is secure.

Sources: Internal Revenue Service, Karen Hunt with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Victorville station,

www.Scambusters.com

With the new year here, many are already thinking about filing their taxes, but the IRS warns people to beware of numerous tax scams designed not only to defraud the IRS but also to bilk unsuspecting victims of their returns.

At least two types of tax scams have documented locally, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials.

“We’ve seen cases where unwitting victims will go to a tax preparer they learned about through a flier or some other similar means but when it’s time to pick up their returns from the location, they find out it’s gone,” Karen Hunt, spokeswoman for the Victorville station, said.

She went on to explain that the preparers would push the victims to have their returns put on a debit card instead of a check. The fraudsters also convinced them it would be safer to have the refund sent to their office.

“But it’s not just their money,” she noted. “The preparers now have a lot of their personal information including their Social Security number.”

Hunt advises people do their homework before going to a tax professional.

Scammers also try to obtain a filer’s social security number or other personal information in order to claim the victim’s tax return, according to authorities with the IRS.

There have been reports of mail being stolen from private mailboxes throughout the Victor Valley. There have also been reports of drop-off boxes in Victorville and Adelanto being vandalized and mail taken from them, according to sheriff’s and local postal service officials.

One of the largest and most costly scams use information taken from mailboxes but also through online phishing scams, according to the IRS website.

Among the most prevalent is the “Turbo Tax scam,” so named because scammers will send out phony emails using the legitimate tax preparation software company’s name, according to IRS and Internet Crime Complain Center reports.

The email tells the victim they need to do an upgrade on their software in order to be in compliance with new tax laws and provides a link in the email, officials said. The link takes the victim to a fraudulent website which appears to be legitimate. At this point the victim will either download a virus instead of the upgrade or they are asked to enter personal information to confirm they are the software holder.

The criminals will then use the information to again file taxes with the IRS and have the returns sent to them, according to authorities.

“People have to be vigilant and always make sure they know who they are going to prepare their taxes,” Hunt said. “You are handing over very sensitive information and you want to make sure the person you’re giving it to is a professional.”

Anyone who feels they may have been victimized by any of these scams should report it to their local law enforcement authorities and the IRS by logging onto www.IRS.gov.

Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at (760) 951-6276 or at BValenzuela@VVDailyPress.com.


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Mailbox Thieves Strike Again in Weston, Police Say

Mailbox Thieves Strike Again in Weston, Police Say

Photo credit: Alissa Smith

WESTON, Conn. — Mailbox thieves have struck again in Weston, according to a blog written by Weston Police Detective Carl Filsinger, which reported that a Hidden Hill Road resident had mail and money taken from his mailbox Tuesday.

According to Filsinger’s Yahoo! Group Weston-eWatch, mail, gifts, cash and checks were reported stolen from the mailbox Dec. 27. “One of those checks was forged and cashed,” Filsinger wrote on his blog.

According to police, thieves also stole mail and gifts out of residential mailboxes on Brookwood Lane and Deepwood Road on Christmas Eve.

Although many of these types of thefts cannot be avoided when you are not home, Weston police are urging residents to pay attention to any unusual or suspicious behavior in their neighborhoods.

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Mail Theft

Bad Weekend For Mailboxes

A resident in the 4200 block of Commonwealth Avenue reported to deputies that sometimes between 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, and 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, her mailbox, possibly containing an unkown amount of mail, was ripped from its post located about 100 feet across the street from her residence.

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Credit Card Theft from Mailbox

Update: Woman wanted for credit card theft in Portsmouth turns herself in

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WANTED: Jamita Lavonne Brown, age 24, of the 1400 block of Crawford Street

WTKR-TV3
3:53 p.m. EST, November 8, 2011

Jamita Lavonne Brown, age 24, of the 1400 block of Crawford Street, turned herself in to Portsmouth police this afternoon after seeing herself on the news.

Portsmouth police say that between August 10, 2011, and September 9, 2011, Brown charged over $3,000 to a credit card that was taken from a male victim’s mailbox.

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The victim ordered the credit card from Sears in early August 2011. Police say the card was sent via U.S. Postal Service several days later to his address in Portsmouth.

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When the victim did not receive the card, he contacted Sears. He was informed the credit card had exceeded its credit limit, and numerous purchases had been made.

Portsmouth Police Economic Crime Detectives began an investigation with the victim and the credit card company. They are still in the process of identifying local stores where the card was used by the suspect. One of the stores was a Rite Aid.

On August 26, 2011, police say Jamita Brown entered a Rite Aid store located at 1141 London Boulevard and purchased several cosmetics and hygiene items.

She was captured on the store surveillance camera entering the front door. She was pushing a double baby stroller with two small children.

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Keep your mail safe!

Mailbox marauders charged over fake licence fraud
Posted November 02, 2011 09:10:17

Police have charged two Chinese nationals who they say were producing fake driver’s licences.

Officers stopped the men, aged 19 and 20, in the city’s east at Maroubra early yesterday afternoon after reports the pair were going through mailboxes.

The pair were searched, with police allegedly finding a fake New South Wales driver’s licence and photocopies of another 25 fake licences.

Two mobile phones were also seized that had allegedly been purchased using the bogus licences.

Police later raided a home in the inner city at Chippendale, where they took computers and passports for examination.

The men were charged with 25 counts of possessing false documents to obtain property and two counts of dishonestly obtaining property by deception.

They are being held in custody to face court today.

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Identity Theft

Victims of mailbox marauders in Westmead

28 OCT 11 @ 07:31AM BY STEVEN DEARE

Manami Sall,  Roman Ruchalski,  Fiona Noyce, and Paul Johnstone (rear). PICTURE: CHRIS MCKEEN

Manami Sall, Roman Ruchalski, Fiona Noyce, and Paul Johnstone (rear). PICTURE: CHRIS MCKEEN

THIEVES are plundering the mailboxes of Westmead residents in concerted efforts to steal their identity.

Residents of units in Good St told The Advertiser some had money and credit cards stolen by thieves who unlocked their mailboxes.

The latest thefts occurred this month after previous ones occured irregularly over the last 12 months.

Resident Fiona Noyce said she and others often saw the effects on mornings after the raids.

“They’ve been at the boxes again,” she said. “They’ve been opening them. There was mail all over the ground. They’re still doing it.”

Many mailbox locks have been changed but this has not stopped the thieves. They are brazen, too.

“There was one lady who had her credit card stolen and got a call at 7pm asking for her bank details,” Ms Noyce said. “She was smart enough not to give them.”

“But this is affecting the people who are living here and there doesn’t seem to be a resolution.”

Ms Noyce said she had set up a post office box to avoid the problem, but that did not suit others.

Another resident, Roman Ruchalski, said a post office box would be a costly inconvenience for him.

“A post office box is not the solution for me,” he said. “My mailbox is close; a post office box is in the middle of Parramatta.”

Resident Paul Johnstone said he had filmed men rifling through mailboxes last year and had supplied the footage to police.

Holroyd local area command crime manager David Jones said police had been unable to convict the men as the footage showed no theft.

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