Mail theft new frontier in stealing
BEWARE: Crystal meth addicts leading cause of growing problem of identity theft
BY ETHAN BARON STAFF REPORTER
Just because the cheque’s in the mail doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. If you ask Jacqueline Iverson of Port Coquitlam she’ll tell you the cheque may vanish, never to be seen again. Ask Patricia Towler of Vancouver and she’ll tell you the cheque may be found stained and grubby in some guy’s pocket.
Across the Lower Mainland, throughout B.C.and all around Canada, mail theft has become the new frontier in stealing, feeding the massive trend of identity theft,perpetrated in many cases by crystal meth addicts who can stay up for days snatching mail and crunching names and numbers on a computer.
And along with the financial losses and the headaches comes anger, most of it directed at Canada Post.
“I’m really upset,”said Iverson.“It’s a Crown corporation. We’re paying our taxes to pay these people and they don’t seem to care. I want them to do something about this.”
The Iversons’mail has gone missing since August from their Canada Post multi-address “superbox” down the street. She’s just had to cancel her credit card, because the statement never showed up. When she and her husband didn’t check their box for six days, they opened it and found it empty.
“There was not a flyer, there was absolutely nothing,” she said. “My husband was waiting for a birthday card from his grandmother that was sent, we never received that, and it had a cheque in it.”
She told Canada Post they wanted to pick up all their mail from the post office,but were told they’d be charged $3 a week for that service.
“I said, “How can you charge me $3 a week when I’m not even getting my mail right now?’ They said to me all they’re responsible for is getting it to that box — after that it’s not their responsibility.”
Chilliwack’s mail-theft problem provides a case study in postal pilfering and identity interception.
“These yahoos,they’re on meth,they will go days without sleeping and, of course, they’re out stealing to feed their habit,”said Staff-Sgt.Gerry Falk of the Upper Fraser Valley RCMP.
Once they’ve gleaned cheques,cash and personal information from the stolen envelopes, the thieves go to work at a computer, piecing together an identity.
“If they know a particular address, they can start profiling that particular person,” said Upper Fraser RCMP Sgt. Ron Angell. “They actually use computers and keep all that information. Amongst themselves they share this information. They get all this information and they start cross-referencing it.”
Once they have enough information compiled,they can apply for credit in someone else’s name or sell the profile to another criminal, he said.
Chilliwack’s mail thieves were using replica keys, made in jail, to get into Canada Post superboxes and drop boxes,said Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Chuck Strahl, himself a victim of mail theft.
“Someone steals your identity,whatever it might be, in British Columbia, they sell it to a guy in Manitoba who puts it together and offloads it to another guy in Ontario, who uses a credit card in Montreal.
“Successful prosecutions are few and far between.Who would you deal with? The Quebec police, the RCMP, the OPP, or what, Vancouver city police?”
Arrests of several meth addicts, along with community education on postal security and Canada Post’s lock changes on mailboxes have put a huge dent in Chilliwack’s mail theft, Falk said.
In Vancouver, Towler’s problems started this summer.
“I had a period of two full weeks when I didn’t receive one piece of mail,” she said. She left a note for the postie asking if mail had been coming.“The note back was,‘Oh, yes, I’ve been delivering it every day.”’
On two occasions when she did receive her mail, it contained letters, one from Vancouver police and one from Canada Post, saying police had found her mail on people they’d stopped. Her letter from city police included a $25-insurance cheque she’d never received,now grubby and water-stained.
“The only advice that Canada Post gave us was empty your box every day, but we do. By the time we get home from work it’s gone.”
Towler is now paying extra to have her mail sent to her work address.
How to protect your mail
Some tips from Canada Post:
Pick up mail soon after delivery, deposit it close to mail pickup and don’t deposit anything after the day’s last pickup.
When on holiday, get someone to collect your mail or pay Canada Post to keep it at the post office.
Don’t send cash in the mail.
Drop off sensitive items at the post office.
If you get mail for someone else, write “wrong address”on it and put it in a Canada Post red mailbox.
Don’t let strangers into your building.
Notify the strata council or building management if your building’s box appears nonsecure.
Mail-theft victim Jacqueline Iverson checks for mail in Port Coquitlam on Thursday. NICK PROCAYLO — THE PROVINCE