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Mail theft: Fraud opportunities waiting to happen

Jeff Tate
by Jeff Tate, Police Chief04/26/2018 10:00 am
Updated: 04/26/2018

We have seen an increase in fraud-related activity throughout the city, particularly when it comes to mail thefts. These types of crimes don’t always grab the headlines, but they are important to be aware of and know what steps you can take to protect yourself against fraud. 

The FBI estimates only 15 percent of fraud victims report the crimes to law enforcement. The people who commit these crimes know this and realize the risk of being caught is minuscule. The cost to victims nationally is in the billions of dollars. 

One of the easiest ways criminals commit fraud is by looking for the up flags on mailboxes. They call it “flagging.” It becomes an easy target for thieves to steal outgoing mail, which may include a check you are sending. We encourage you to stop using your mailbox flag and never place your outgoing mail in your mailbox. Rather, it is better to drop mail off in U.S. post office box. Also, always have someone you trust collect your mail and packages when you are out of town. 

Another suggestion is to use the USPS Informed Delivery Notification System. This is especially valuable if you regularly get packages delivered or have a home business that gets mail delivered. Even if you think you wouldn’t use the feature a lot, by signing up you can prevent someone else from trying to sign up to fraudulently use that service to monitor incoming packages to your address. 

Law enforcement has also seen a rising trend of people receiving packages they didn’t order, e.g. “brushing.” The victims are not charged for the items in question but can’t stop the items from being shipped either. Scammers engage in this practice to make the purchase look genuine and avoid violating Amazon’s terms for reviewing one’s own products. You may not think you’re the victim of a scam but being “brushed” means that someone has your name, address and who knows what other information. Learn more at: www.idtheftcenter.org/Home-column-1-scam/brushing-scam-can-it-really-hurt-you and https://clark.com/scams-rip-offs/ups-and-fedex-warning-beware-of-deliveries-you-didnt-order

Please always report any suspicious activity in your neighborhood. Being the victim of fraud can cause a great deal of pain and inconvenience. Please take proactive steps to limit your exposure to these risks. I also encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter where will post information on recent activity and the latest “scam” information.