The outside drop box at the post office in Glen Rose was burglarized sometime during the weekend of Oct. 25.
A press release from the Somervell County Sheriff’s office reported that numerous pieces of outgoing mail were stolen from the box, mail that included payments and personal bank account information. The sheriff’s office has already received reports of fraud involving identity theft.
A joint investigation by the sheriff’s office and the United States Postal Inspection Service (PIS) is under way.
Weldon Baker, officer in charge at the Glen Rose Post Office, said they notified the PIS on Oct. 27.
“It looks like they had a set of bolt cutters,” Baker said.
The iconic blue box is a familiar sight for postal customers everywhere, allowing people to send off outgoing mail anytime of day without leaving their car.
The box in front of the Glen Rose office was not removed from the site, instead whoever burglarized it simply popped the lock open and cleaned out the contents.
Many customers were surprised when they started receiving late payment notices or even service disconnection notices due to nonpayment, never knowing that their mail had been stolen from the post office.
“We had mailed a bunch of payments for bills,” Clark Cole said.
On Nov. 7, he and his wife started receiving disconnection notices and notices of suspicious activity on their credit card accounts.
A Shell credit card in their name had been maxed out; fake checks began to clear from their bank account.
“These guys are professionals and the post office gave them a two week head start. They took the information off our stolen checks and created new ones,” Cole said.
Aside from having his personal information stolen from the drop box, Cole was frustrated that the post office didn’t let customers know there was a potential problem. He said customers were not contacted or warned about the theft.
Baker admits they did not tell customers and are only required to call PIS, which they did immediately when they discovered the box had been broken open.
Amanda McMurray, pubic information officer with PIS, said tracking down who has used an outside drop box could be difficult.
“When we know we have victims, we will notify customers,” she said, adding that the post office cannot legally monitor who uses drop boxes.
She also classified the burglary of the blue boxes as a “fairly rare occurrence,” noting that thieves generally pick boxes in less obvious locations.
“We do have leads and we are investigating,” McMurray said. “Ordinarily, a notice is posted, but due to miscommunications, USPIC didn’t receive notice of the theft until about two weeks after.”
McMurray clarified that normally the postmaster or OIC is instructed by PIS to post a notice to customers about such thefts. But when the initial report came in, it was classified under the wrong category.
“We are reviewing protocol to ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen again,” McMurray said.
Polly Clemens, vice president and branch manager at Town and Country Bank, is urging customers to take a proactive approach.
“If they know they had mail in that post office box, they need to go to their bank and look at their account,” Clemens said. “We’re recommending that they close their account and open a new one. No one has lost any money at our institution at this point.”
Clemens also urged anyone who has lost money to file a police report at the Sheriff’s office.
“Be aware of your account. Know what’s out there and what you have and what shouldn’t be going through,” Clemens said.
If anything suspicious appears on your account, contact your bank immediately.
Clemens also recommended placing a fraud alert on your credit report by calling one of the three main credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Under a fraud alert, the credit reporting bureaus will not release your credit report without expressed consent, meaning someone cannot open a line of credit under your name.
“It does make it a little more difficult, but that’s the purpose,” Clemens said.
Anyone with information about this case, or thinks they may have been a victim, should contact the PIS at 877-876-2455.
A $5,000 reward is available for information about this or any other mail theft case. The penalty is up to five years in federal prison for each piece of stolen mail.