A drop box outside a Modesto post office was broken into over the weekend and mail might have been stolen from it, the U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday.
At issue is mail dropped off from 5:30 p.m. Saturday to 11:30 p.m. Sunday at the Kearney Avenue station, according to a notice posted on a front door.
Gus Ruiz, a regional spokesman for the Postal Service, said he had not heard of the break-in until Wednesday and would try to determine why it was not reported to the media sooner to spread the word. The local staff is not commenting.
Mail theft has become a major concern because of the possibility that thieves could gain control of bank accounts, credit cards and other assets.
"With identity theft right now, it could ruin somebody's life," said Joe Bazaldua, who lives across Kearney and used to work for the Postal Service.
He talked while standing several yards from where the drop box — removed since the break-in — used to sit. Bazaldua said a security camera had been trained on the box, but Ruiz could not confirm that. No suspects have been identified, the spokesman said.
The post office is two blocks east of North Ninth Street, in a part of west-central Modesto with a mix of homes, industrial sites and other uses.
The drop box was broken into via a door used by postal employees to retrieve the mail, Ruiz said. The box had served walk-up and drive-through customers and it likely has had increased use since the closure of the downtown post office last year.
The volume of stolen mail, Ruiz said, "is very difficult to ascertain because we don't know how many customers dropped off mail after the last collection."
Mail is collected on Saturdays but not Sundays, when the post office is closed. It was unclear why the notice on the door specified 11:30 p.m. Sunday as the cutoff time for the break-in.
A postal inspector working the case did not return a call Wednesday.
With the drop boxes out of service, Kearney customers can leave outgoing mail with postal employees or drop it in the room that houses personal post office boxes.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.
Call (877) 876-2455 if you think your mail might have been stolen from the drop box outside the Kearney Avenue post office over the weekend.
If you confirm a theft, take steps to protect assets that are at risk if the thief uses information found in the mail:
Stop payment on stolen checks.
Contact the places where sensitive mail was destined, including bill payments and credit applications.
Contact credit reporting services, which can keep fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report.
Experian is at www.experian.com or (888) 397-3742.
TransUnion is at www.transunion.com or (800) 680-7289.
Equifax is at www.equifax.com.
PREVENTING MAIL THEFT
Use drop boxes close to the collection times listed on them.
Pick up mail soon after it is delivered to your home.
Tell your post office when you will be out of town. It can hold your mail until you return.
Do not send cash in the mail.
Ask your bank for checks that cannot be altered.
Give outgoing mail to your letter carrier.
Sources: U.S. Postal Service, Federal Trade Commission