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Beware of mail tampering

June 05, 2002|STAFF REPORT

El Centro Postmaster Cynthia Gibson is advising residents that she is receiving an increasing number of reports of mail tampering and possible theft on several rural El Centro and Holtville routes. The incidents are occurring in northeast El Centro and west Holtville.

Similar incidents were reported in recent months. Thieves may be targeting Social Security checks, usually issued around the first of the month, and credit cards.

"Customers are reporting that their mail is being removed from their boxes, opened and placed back in mailboxes down the road. It appears that credit card statements are also targeted, probably thieves looking for credit cards to steal," said Gibson.

Victims include those living in residences on three rural routes in El Centro and one rural route in Holtville. In each case mail was removed from the box, opened and then placed in other mailboxes.

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"Thieves often will drive down the road, take mail from the box, open it, remove valuables or negotiable contents such as checks or credit cards, and place the opened or discarded mail in the next box they come to, sometimes right after the carrier does the delivery," said Gibson.

To protect against mail theft. Gibson offers a few common-sense tips that will help minimize mail theft opportunities.

1. Be aware. Report suspicious activity around mailboxes. Rural route carriers' vehicles now are displaying a U.S. Mail placard so there will be no confusion.

2. Get a license plate number if possible.

3. Pick up your mail every day or have a trusted friend pick it up for you.

4. Consider security mailboxes.

5. Report mail tampering incidents immediately to your local postmaster.

"Our experience shows us that mail theft of this sort usually stops once community notifications go out and thieves know they are being watched," said Gibson. "Hopefully with this attention they'll get the message."

According to the Postal Inspection Service, most mail theft activity is related to drug use. Thieves look for negotiable items such as cash, checks, credit cards and other items that can be converted into money for drugs.

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