Identity Theft

Mail and Identity Theft

Mail theft and identity theft crimes are being reported more frequently to the St. Helens Police Department, mirroring a trend seen throughout Oregon. More and more people are falling victim to thieves who will commonly steal mail and use information contained in the mail to defraud people of their money. According to Oregon Revised Statutes, anyone who takes mail, or by fraud or deception obtains mail, or buys, receives, conceals, or possesses mail or any mailed article, is guilty of the Class A misdemeanor crime of mail theft.

St. Helens police officers take reports from victims and work closely with neighboring police agencies to try to solve these crimes. Although it can be very difficult, cases have been successfully investigated and prosecuted. To help prevent you from becoming a victim, we have provided the following tips for you to review and keep in mind.

A person commits the crime of identity theft if the person with the intent to defraud obtains, possesses, transfers, creates, utters, or converts to the person’s own use the personal identification of another person. Identity theft is a Class C felony. Personal identification includes, but is not limited to:

  • A person’s name, address, or telephone number
  • A person’s driving privileges
  • A person’s social security number or tax identification number
  • A person’s citizenship status
  • A person’s employment status, place of employment, or the identification number assigned to a person by a person’s employer
  • The maiden name of a person’s mother
  • A person’s bank account numbers or a personal identification number
  • A person’s signature or a copy of their signature
  • A person’s e-mail name, e-mail signature, e-mail address, or e-mail account
  • A person’s photograph
  • A person’s birth date

Mail Theft Prevention

  • Do not put outgoing mail into an unsecured mailbox. Deposit outgoing mail, especially if it contains checks, into the slot inside the post office or into a U.S. postal mail collection box.
  • If your mailbox is not a locking one, promptly remove mail after it is delivered. If you won’t be home when valuables are delivered, have a trusted neighbor or friend pick up your mail.
  • If you are ordering blank checks, consider having the checks delivered to your bank branch where you can pick them up.
  • Consider starting a Neighborhood Watch program in your neighborhood. Exchanging schedules with your neighbors will help everyone look out for each other’s mail.
  • Have the post office hold your mail if you will be away for an extended time.
  • Install a locking mailbox or use a post office box. Contact your local Postmaster for regulations regarding locking mailboxes.

Mail Theft In Progress

  • If you see a theft of mail in progress, be a good witness. Get the best description of the person(s) as you can. Get a description of any vehicle being used, including the license plate number and state, the make, model, and color. Call 9-1-1 right away. Police officers in the area will try to find and apprehend the suspect(s).

If You Are the Victim of Mail Theft

  • If you discover after the fact that you are a victim of mail theft and the theft of mail happened within the city limits of St. Helens, call the St. Helens Police non-emergency dispatch number at (503) 397-1521.
  • Make a report to the local U.S. Postmaster or U.S. Postal Inspector.

Identity Theft Prevention

  • Do not recycle paper that contains personal information. Paper recycling centers and garbage bins are sources of information for identity thieves.
  • Use a shredder to destroy checks, credit offers, convenience checks and other documents containing your name, bank account numbers and other personal information. Thoroughly destroy expired credit cards. Credit cards cut into only a couple of pieces may still work if taped back together, or the number may still be used.
  • Use a locking mailbox for incoming mail. Take outgoing mail to the post office or drop it in a mail collection box.
  • Regularly review your credit and bank account statements for any transactions you did not make.
  • To reduce credit offers in the mail, contact the three major credit reporting bureaus and have your credit report marked for no solicitation.
  • Request copies of your credit report at least once a year, more frequently if you suspect someone else may be using your identity. Look for any accounts you did not open. Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus.
  • Don’t leave wallets, checks, or purses unsecured — especially in a vehicle or unlocked gym locker. These are common targets for identity thieves.
  • Carry only the credit cards you need. Don’t keep your credit card or ATM card PIN number with your card. Don’t use numbers for your PIN such as your birth date, phone number or social security number that could be guessed by an identity thief.
  • In offices, don’t leave purses unsecured. Sometimes thieves will enter offices looking for purses in common places like under desks or in drawers.
  • Don’t give personal information to phone solicitors such as your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, social security number or bank PIN code, except to someone you know or an established firm. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If You Are the Victim of Identity Theft

  • Do file a police report. Where to file a report can sometimes be confusing. If you know or suspect where your personal information was stolen, call the police agency where the theft happened.
  • If you don’t know where the identity theft happened, call your local police agency for help. If you live in St. Helens and otherwise don’t know where the crime occurred, call the St. Helens Police Department.
  • The crime of identity theft is almost always associated with other crimes including mail theft, forgery, fraudulent use of a credit card, computer crime and others. These crimes often cross multiple police jurisdictions. File reports in the jurisdictions where you can determine any of these crimes happened.
  • In the case of check forgery, the location of the crime is usually determined by where the check was “uttered,” or presented for payment.
  • If forged or counterfeit checks on your account are returned to you, avoid handling them to preserve any fingerprints. Make copies of the documents for your files and make the originals available to the police. Often times, the suspect(s) latent fingerprints can still be found on paper items like checks even after passing through the banking system.
  • In the case of fraudulent use of credit cards, the location of the crime is usually where the services were provided or where the transaction happened. In the event of fraudulent credit card charges over the Internet or by telephone mail order, make reports to police in the location where merchandise was delivered.
  • Report fraudulent charges to the financial institutions involved. Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently — by phone and in writing.
  • Order copies of your credit report from the three major credit reporting bureaus. Look for fraudulent accounts. Alert the credit bureaus in writing that you are a victim of identity theft.
  • Maintain a file of the reports you have made. Keep a record of the police agency and report file number where you filed reports. Having the police case number will be helpful when making reports to bank fraud departments. If bill collectors call to collect on fraudulent charges made in your name, provide them the police report number and the investigator’s name.
  • If your case involves a large dollar loss and crosses state lines in some way, your case might be investigated by a federal agency such as the US Secret Service or the FBI. If your mail was stolen, call the US Postal Inspector. The St. Helens Police Department can provide you with further information.

Credit Reporting Bureaus

  • EQUIFAX
    P. O. Box 105873
    Atlanta, GA 30348
    Order Report# (800) 685-1111
    Fraud # (800) 525-6285
    Web site: http://www.equifax.com
  • EXPERIAN (formerly TRW)
    P. O. Box 2104
    Allen, TX 75013-2104
    Order Report# (888) 397-3742
    Fraud # (800) 301-7195
    Web site: http://www.experian.com/
  • TRANSUNION CORPORATION
    P. O. 34012
    Fullerton, CA 92834
    Order Report# (800) 916-8800
    Fraud # (800) 680-7289
    Web site: http://www.tuc.com

Additional Resources