An affluent section of Houston encompassing 3,000 homes has drawn the attention of thieves looking to cash in on mail and ID theft. Memorial Villages police chief Ray Schultz said he’s seen a steady rise in these cases since the pandemic set-in.
“They’re looking for stuff that will say ‘tax documents,’ anything that has the name of a financial institution or a credit card,” said Schultz.
Memorial Villages police patrols three municipalities off Memorial Drive: Piney Point Village, Bunker Hill Village and Hunters Creek Village. Schultz outlined numerous cases of stolen mail involving everything from gift and credit cards, to cash and several Russian passports.
“Obviously the State Department has a very strong interest in this,” Schultz said of the passports recovered by his officers.
Schultz said many of the thieves are stealing mail right out of people’s mailboxes.
“We’ve also got these crews driving around at night, driving up to mailboxes and taking mail,” said Schultz.
Other crooks have hit so-called ‘blue boxes’ and Schultz said some cases have been traced to mail stolen at post offices. Schultz said one case involved crooks who had master keys to open mailboxes.
“One of the cases we were able to identify was the son of a US Postal employee,” said Schultz.
Schultz said the real goal of these criminals is not the mail, but the personal information. Schultz said he’s seen the identities of some of his own officers, CEOs and retirees used to cash in on unemployment benefits and Small Business Association loans.
“Many times the victims do not know that they’ve been victimized until the payment book shows up that says a loan has been taken out and it’s usually between $80,000 and $110,000,” said Schultz.
Schultz also said the thieves work quickly; some even keep detailed ledgers so they can start opening accounts almost as soon as they steal someone’s information.
“It’s not uncommon to find, in the cars, portable scanners, portable encoders,” Schultz said.
Police have even caught some crooks carrying around wigs in case they’re caught on camera. Schultz said his officer have made several arrests and continue to try to find out who is behind some of the more sophisticated criminal operations. However, he concedes it is difficult, time-consuming work, especially since thieves can move money acquired from stolen identities to several different accounts in a matter of hours.
Schultz does suggest being diligent in collecting your mail everyday, don’t leave it in the box, consider paying all bills online and sign up for the Postal Services ‘Informed Delivery’ service. This is a free service that will inform you of what mail you should expect to receive each day.
You can find information on ‘Informed Delivery’ here.