Crystal Candiece Cooper recently pleaded guilty in California to stealing mail and using the stolen mail for purposes of identity theft. At her sentencing, scheduled for September 12th she faces a prison sentence of as long as thirty years. Identity theft is a high tech, low tech and no tech crime and while we often tend to focus our attention on high tech identity theft tactics such as spear phishing, no tech tactics such as fishing for mail with a plastic bottle covered in glue that is lowered into blue public mailboxes to capture mail being sent with checks is making a comeback.
I have warned you for years about leaving mail with checks or credit card information in your personal mailbox outside of your home with the flag raised to alert your postal carrier that there is mail in your box to be retrieved is a bad idea because it also alerts identity thieves who can easily steal the mail. Once they have the checks, they can “wash” the name or even the amount of the check and make the check payable to the thief. They also can use the account number of your check to create counterfeit checks to access your checking account.
Mail thieves also will steal incoming mail from your own personal mailbox which may contain credit card bills, checks and other information and documents that can readily be used for purposes of identity theft.
This is an easy crime to avoid. In regard to paying your bills, the best course of action is to pay your bills electronically and avoid the problem altogether. However, if you cannot do so or prefer to send a paper check by mail, you should use a gel pen that is not easily “washed” to write your checks and you should mail envelopes with checks in them directly from inside the post office. You also should consider a locked mailbox for your personal mailbox to avoid identity thieves from easily accessing your mail before you do.