“One category we continue to struggle with is grand larceny,” said Deputy Inspector William McBride, commanding officer of the 111th Precinct, “and it’s not people stealing purses off people in the street.”
During the 111th Precinct Community Council’s November meeting, McBride attributed the year-to-date rise in grand larceny to certain financial crime trends that the precinct has taken note of in the area.
Sergeant Lambros Gavalas, who works in the grand larceny division of the 111th Precinct Detective Squad, gave an in-depth presentation about the local trends. The first was mailbox fishing.
Gavalas explained that thieves looking to steal mail will attach objects dipped in a sticky substance to fishing line and drop them into U.S. Postal Service mailboxes. Then, envelopes inserted into the mailbox by local residents will stick to the object and easily be pulled out with the line by crooks.
“It’s not very high tech, but it works,” Gavalas said.
Gavalas told residents not to drop their envelopes into mailboxes that look tampered with or have missing or worn time stamps posted on them. He also encouraged attendees to invest in gel impact pens, which can be found at most office supply stores. The gel is resistant to the acetone wash that some crooks use to remove the ink from stolen checks in order to alter payee and monetary value.
“[Thieves] kind of focus on smaller amounts,” Gavalas said. “They don’t always wash the checks, but this seems to be a common way to do it.”
Another scam officials have observed in the area are installed skimming devices, which enable thieves to pull an individual’s financial information remotely.
“You have your card: it has a magnetic strip on it,” Gavalas explained. “That device on the door, or that device on the ATM itself, or some other location where you put your card in — that’s where they skim your information from.”
To combat information skimming, Gavalas encouraged attendees to fully cover the ATM pad with one hand when entering their PIN with the other and examine the ATM for any physical irregularities.
“Be paranoid; it’s okay,” Gavalas said. “If you do this, you’ll be minimizing the chance they’ll see your PIN number.”
If one does fall victim to a financial scam, Gavalas advised individuals to immediately notify the authorities, alert all banks to flag their accounts and contact all creditors about the situation.
Gavalas also encouraged residents to report suspicious individuals who they may see using the ATM.
“This is exactly what they look like,” Galavas said, who directed attendees’ attention to two photos of individuals withdrawing money in face masks obscuring their identity. “See these guys still trick-or-treating? If you see this at the ATM, please call 911.”
For more information visit the NYPD’s Crime Prevention website.