Marin County Sheriff's deputies on Monday are investigating a rash of mailbox thefts in the Green Point neighborhood of unincorporated Novato.
About two dozen mailboxes on H Lane, Atherton Avenue, School Road and Crest Road were emptied overnight and the boxes were scattered on the roadways, Lt. Barry Heying said.
The content losses were undetermined, he said. The boxes were the unlocked type, most mounted on posts in the ground.
Heying said mail theft has been a frequent occurrence in Marin with many of the thieves coming from out of the county and passing through during a few hours. It is easy for thieves to drive next to roadside boxes and remove mail unobserved, he said.
The thieves are looking for:
- Checks which they “wash” by removing the payee name and replacing it with their own.
- Credit cards which they activate and use as such as they can before they are noticed missing and canceled.
- Mail that contains personal information that they can use to establish credit with and obtain new credit cards.
Heying said residents can reduce their risk of mail theft:
- By installing locking mailboxes or by using a post office box if they often send and receive valuable material.
- Make note of suspicious persons or vehicles in their neighborhood and report them to their law enforcement agency. (Investigators often make good cases based upon a license plate number taken down by an observant citizen.)
- Opting-out of solicitation lists from financial companies to reduce unwanted mail containing their personal information.
- Converting their credit card and bank statements to an electronic version – your inbox is safer than your mailbox.
- Using electronic deposit whenever possible instead of receiving checks.
- Remembering to always shred any material with identifying information – including credit card offers.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has resources for preventing identity theft here.