Saturday, January 12, 2008

Missing Mail

The Cause in Nevada?
Mail theft is one of the ways that meth abusers acquire another person's personal information and identification documents. The draw for this type of crime is the ability to generate cash to fuel the habit. In fact, the State of Arizona stated that in 2006 that 90-95% of all reported mail thefts in Tucson had a nexus in meth.

In a recent 2007 declassified Intelligence Bulletin the Department of Justice suggests that there is a direct coorrelation between meth use and identity theft. So it is assumed that the higher the meth use in a certain area -- the higher the percentage of ID theft. While the Southwest continues to remain the hotspot for this type of drug abuse and criminal activity, the bulletin goes on to suggest that soon other areas of the country, such as the Great Lakes, the Southeast, and the Mid-Atlantic region will inevitably see an increase in this type of crime as drug use trends shift.

The Process

Mail theft all happens as part of an organized operation where each member knows a part and and plays a vital function in a system that operates somewhere near you. Collectors acquire personal information by breaking into mailboxes and taking mail. The collectors pass or sell the stolen information to the Converters, who use the information to establish fraudulent bank and credit accounts and to obtain fraudulent checks and monetary instruments. The Passers then use the fraudulent accounts and instruments to purchase expensive consumer items in person or to cash fraudulent checks.


There aren't a whole lot of official statistics readily available on mail theft as a specific crime, save the US Postal Inspector's Annual Report which lists 5,060 arrests and 4,625 convictions of the crime in 2006. (In fact, one of these big busts took place on January 4th, 2006, at the Texas Station Hotel and Casino, where over 200 pieces of stolen mail with Las Vegas addresses were recovered -- A rather proud day for the Postal Inspection Service, I'm sure.)

Other random Internet blurbs have suggested the following, and while unverified provide statistics that are perhaps a sign of the times.
  • One in three cases involving identity theft occurs via the mail.

  • Parcel Packages are at their most vulnerable when left unattended on your doorstep.

  • With Internet shoppers increasing daily, more and more parcel packages never find their rightful owner due to thieves who follow these trucks and grab packages left unattended.

  • Police and the US Postal Service say that "deterring mail thieves is as easy as locking outside mailboxes and warns to never leave bills in mailboxes for postal workers to pick up. Postal Inspectors term this "Red Flagging" and recommend that you always take outgoing mail to a Postal drop box or US Post Office.

  • A mail thief can get up to $1,000 per box for a box of reissued and/or new checks you receive through the mail.

  • Mail theft has become so common that some states are considering legislation for stiffer penalties since current laws consider it only a misdemeanor theft.
How To Prevent Mail Theft

The United States Postal Inspection Service has the following tips so that you don't become a victim:
  • Use the letter slots at your post office to mail letters, or give them to a letter carrier.

  • CHECK YOUR MAIL DAILY. Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.

  • Don’t send cash in the mail.

  • Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.

  • Tell your post office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail until you return.

  • Report all mail theft to a Postal Inspector.

  • Deposit mail in U.S. Postal Service collection boxes.

  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes (as well as homes).

And Some Other Thoughts:

  • Use a PO Box.

  • Install a locking mail box.

  • Request Delivery Confirmation on Packages sent via U.S. Mail.

  • Destroy all mail containing personal information before discarding.

How To Report Mail Theft

  • Be Vigilant! If you observe a mail thief at work, call the local police immediately, and then your nearest Postal Inspector (877-876-2455) The United States Postal Inspection Service offers up to a $10,000 Reward for information and services leading to the arrest and conviction of any person for Mail Theft. Theft of mail, or even possession of stolen mail, is a Federal Felony and upon conviction each offense may be punishable by a fine up to $250,000 and imprisonment up to five years. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1708)

  • Report! Report any and all incidents of Mail Theft, Vandalism, Mail Tampering, and False Change of Address. Visit the Investigations Page to find out more about each type of crime. For mail theft you may use the online form, or you may print the hard copy.