Increased Mail Theft in SCV

Increased Mail Theft in SCV

There has been a significant increase in mail theft in the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) in recent months.  Thieves are focusing on the U.S. Postal Service’s neighborhood delivery box unit (NDBU), using counterfeit keys.

According to a recent article published in the Signal, the Santa Clarita Post Office is aware of the program and “very involved” in changing out the lock/key mechanism to make the NDBUs more secure.

Why Steal Mail?

Mail thieves are individuals or ever increasingly organized groups who are looking to make easy money on a relatively low risk venture.  They typically look through incoming and outgoing mail for:

  • Personally identifiable information (PII) is any data that could potentially identify a specific individual. Any information that can be used to distinguish one person from another and can be used for de-anonymizing anonymous data can be considered PII.
  • Identifying numbers, such as Social Security Number (SSN), bank account number, medical account identification numbers
  • Tax returns or records
  • Passwords: Banking account online access password, computer passwords
  • Names: Mother’s maiden name, all residents
  • Mailing addresses
  • Personal checks you have written to pay bills—they will alter the checks and cash them money, also know as washing checks
  • Credit cards – while they hope to find already activated cards, they are usually successful in using the 800# to activate a new card and use if it for personal gain

The end result of this valuable information is the mail theft victim becoming an identity theft victim with lines of credit established in their name.

How can I better protect my in-coming mail?

  • Install an effective (easy, strong, hard to break into) personal locking mailbox and USE THE LOCK.
  • Watch your mailbox for deliveries (when possible).
  • Pick up your delivered mail as soon as possible from your personal mailbox. Never let it overflow unless you want greedy hands picking your mail off the top.
  • If you are away, give a neighbor your mailbox key, and have them pick up and safely store each day’s mail deliveries.
  • Consider electronic banking and direct deposits to minimize the amount of financial data coming into and going out from your mail box.
  • Get your bank to provide you with copies of your cancelled checks. Make sure none were chemically altered to change the payee and amount.
  • Review your credit card and bank statements closely and promptly.
  • Run a credit check regularly.
  • Stay current with local media for news on mail theft.

How can I protect my out-going mail?

  • ALWAYS put outgoing mail into an official USPS collection box. They are hard to break into, in a more public setting, and postal employees monitor them at pickup times.
  • NEVER put outgoing mail into your own personal mailbox.
  • NEVER put up your red flag on your personal mailbox. It’s a perfect signal to a mail thief that there is outgoing mail present. If you must put outgoing mail in your box, don’t raise the flag; postal personnel will still pick it up, but you won’t be advertising that it is there.
  • Stay current with local media for news on mail theft.
  • Be actively aware of mail theft in your neighborhood; watch for thefts in progress and report them immediately to 911.
  • Shred all mail going into your garbage that contains your name, address, or other vital information.

Why should I use a collection box for outgoing mail instead of using my red flag at home?
The red flag is the perfect signal to a mail thief that there is outgoing mail (and probably checks that can be altered) in the mailbox. If you must put outgoing mail in your box, do not use the flag.

Mail placed in a personal mailbox is unsecured, and cannot be protected other than physically watching the mailbox and catching a thief in the act of robbing your mail.

Postal employees monitor USPS collection boxes for mail theft at pick-up times. These collection boxes are hard for thieves to break into, though certainly not impossible (3 collection boxes were stolen in previous years).

Collection boxes are in a much more public setting, so there is a greater chance someone will see the thief and report the crime.

The most secure location to drop off your mail is inside a Post Office. This is of course only available during open hours.