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Mail theft becoming worry, say residents

RODEO: Neighbors fear stolen letters could turn into something worse —

By Tom Lochner, CONTRA COSTA TIMES

A rash of mail thefts has befallen Hercules of late, residents say. “I just found my neighbors’ mail in my court,” Dan Romero, a resident of eastern Hercules, said last week. “It had been opened up. They had no idea about it.”

Teresa Boyle’s family recently was victimized twice — that she knows of.

“A Hercules (police) officer came by to tell us that they had found some of our mail in one of the streets in Hercules,” said Boyle. “It wasn’t just ours; it was other people’s mail, too.” The other time, she said, “I got a letter from the post office that they had found some mail in the street, with our address.”

“You know what they’re doing,” Romero said, speaking about mail thieves. “They’re trying to steal people’s identities.”

He wants the city to alert residents to the danger.

Mail thefts, and the identity thefts that are often the result, are epidemic throughout the region and the nation, postal inspectors say. But there has been a recent spike in the Hercules-Pinole area, said spokesman Dave Guerra.

Thieves have pilfered all kinds of mailboxes there: “rural-type boxes, cluster boxes and also apartment houses — those are prime targets of mail thieves,” Guerra said.

The postal service in late November began an investigation of mail theft in the Hercules-Pinole area as well as Benicia, which also has seen a spike, Guerra said.

“Generally, mail thieves are looking for checks and valuables; credit cards; any type of negotiable item,” Guerra said.

Hercules police logged 38 mail theft incidents in the first 11 months of 2006, said Hercules Police Sgt. John Eaves. “There’s no area that hasn’t been hit,” he said.

The incidents are usually logged as petty theft or United States code violations, Eaves said.

Mail theft is only one part of a larger problem of identity theft and fraud that also involves theft of documents or laptop computers, often during residential or auto burglaries, Eaves said. Hercules police received 148 fraud and reports in the first 11 months of 2006, he said.

He related two fraud cases last year that started as mail theft.

In one, checks were stolen from a Hercules mailbox. Authorities soon recovered several that had circulated in the Bay Area. A probation search of an El Sobrante home in May led to the arrest of one person and yielded evidence related to the Hercules victim as well as a laptop stolen during a car burglary a month earlier, Eaves said.

It also provided leads to a San Pablo home, where a search by Hercules police and U.S. postal inspectors uncovered another stolen computer and evidence that the Hercules victim’s personal information was being used to manufacture a fake driver’s license, Eaves said.

OSA Editorial Comments:

Great story and information, it’s time to say: “enough is enough” or scream out from the rooftops that We as an Internet family have to band together and force politicians, the Federal Government, and International leaders to make changes in how we treat Cyber Criminals.

FOR MORE INFO.

• ABOUT MAIL THEFT:

U.S. Postal Service: www.usps.com/postalinspectors/mailthft.htm and go here to
Get “7? Fraud-Prevention DVDs No Charge, No S/H, No Strings!

• ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT:

Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

Nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: www.privacyrights.org/identity.htm

Identity theft is a very ugly nightmare: http://www.idtheft.onlinesecurityauthority.com/

Your Online Security Authority
Bill Wardell

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  1. 1 Comment(s)

  2. By minnie collins on Sep 25, 2008 | Reply

    I am having so much trouble trying to get mail to my daughter in Boynton Beach Fl. The post office in Gainsville Fl. puts return to sender unable to deliver, or no such address. I have also had gift card stolen and one held for a month before I got it back. The recent letter had a $5.oo bill in it and I definitely had the correct address. I want something done to assure me that my mail will be delivered on time. Thank you

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