Thieves targeting tax refunds, stimulus and unemployment checks caught on camera

ByMelanie Woodrow KGO logo
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Thieves targeting COVID-19 stimulus checks caught on camera
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The United States Postal Service is warning residents about an increase in mail theft especially with stimulus and unemployment checks as well as tax refunds circulating the mail system.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The United States Postal Service and even some landlords are warning residents about an increase in mail theft especially with stimulus and unemployment checks as well as tax refunds circulating the mail system.

Porch pirates wearing N95 masks grabbed a package in Oakland on April 29 at 4:50 p.m., just 20 minutes after it was delivered.

Two days prior overnight on April 27 at 4:35 a.m. a woman broke into an Oakland apartment building near Lake Merritt and grabbed armfuls of mail from a 66 unit complex. She left with all that mail in a basket.

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"At this time, there are many things of an attractive nature moving through the mail system," said U.S. Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch.

"Stimulus checks, unemployment checks, tax refunds or you're ordering medication," said Fitch.

East Bay Management company, Bay Apartment Advisors, says the April 27, 4:35 a.m. theft was one of five mail thefts their properties experienced between April 2 and May 4. The mailbox break-ins were from more than 200 units and approximately 300 residents according to Bay Apartment Advisors.

Elyse Kaye gets it.

"It definitely triggered a whole bunch of emotions that nobody really needs right now in this time," said Kaye.

The mailboxes outside Kaye's San Francisco apartment building were broken into a couple of weeks ago.

"You see how it's taped right now? That was pried open," explained Kaye during a Zoom interview while standing at her building's mailboxes.

Kaye was expecting a stimulus check, unemployment benefits and past payments from clients.

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"Then I had to question have I received them, were they actually in that day's mail? As well as what else did they get from me that I didn't know was coming," said Kaye.

For now, the building's mail is being dropped in a slot that goes into the building. A neighbor found much of the discarded mail dumped at Fort Mason.

"My gut tells me that's why they were opening up anything that looked like it was from the government," said Kaye.

Kaye reported it to the United States Postal Inspection Service.

"These are federal offenses, potential penalty up to 5 years in federal prison up to $250,000 fine," said Fitch.

Bay Apartment Advisors says they also reported the theft from their properties.

RELATED: Porch pirates strike a third of Americans surveyed, according to new study

But the Oakland woman who shared the porch pirate video said initially she didn't because it was only a shower curtain stolen.

Fitch encourages people to make the report, no matter what is taken.

"They're probably not just hitting that one house or apartment or condominium, they're hitting others and attacking their neighbors as well," said Fitch.

"Reporting makes all the difference," he continued.

You can file a report on the USPIS website.

There you'll also find a 24 hour hotline: 1-877-876-2455.

The US Postal Inspection Service also suggests filing a report with local law enforcement.

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