Identity fraud fears after spate of post bag thefts

GARDAÍ are investigating whether a criminal gang is behind a recent spate of mailbag thefts from postal staff on their rounds and the incidents are part of an organised effort to acquire personal details for the purposes of committing identity fraud.

In Co Clare in the past two months there have been four such incidents, and one line of inquiry is that the same gang, possibly from Limerick, is involved.

In August, a postman was targeted twice in a week by thieves as he was doing his rounds in Shannon. In the first incident on August 19, a single bundle of mail was taken from a bag which had been left on the postman’s bicycle while he was delivering in the Ard na Greinne area of the town. A week later at Rineanna View, also in Shannon, a man wearing a high-visibility jacket approached the same postal worker and grabbed the mailbag from his shoulder before running away.

On September 23 another postman was targeted while he was delivering in the Dún Na Rí area of Ennis, while just last Friday, a mailbag was stolen from a postal worker in the Millstream area of Killaloe in the east of the county. An Post has confirmed that in the latest incident “a bag was taken from the postman’s bike while he delivered in the area. Approximately 300 mail items are believed to have been taken”.

An Post has confirmed the incidents are being investigated by Gardaí and the company’s own investigation branch. One postal worker has claimed that staff were told there were similar thefts in other parts of the country. However, An Post has said it is not aware of any other incidents.

A company spokesman said: “While the theft of mail in this manner is unusual, An Post takes these incidents very seriously indeed. Interfering with the mail is an offence under the Postal Act. We would appeal to anyone who may have information about any of these incidents to contact their local Garda station.”

Fine Gael’s Deputy spokesman on Justice and Law Reform, Clare TD Joe Carey, said: “The recent spate of four postal bag thefts in Co Clare from postal workers on their daily rounds is very disturbing. There needs to be a review of protocol as these thefts are happening now with alarming frequency. We know from cases of so-called tiger kidnappings Gardaí, along with banking authorities, came together and worked out a new set of procedures to act as a deterrent to any would-be kidnappers. Perhaps there is scope for a similar type of dialogue to occur in relation to postal workers and their bags.

“This issue is especially relevant as we now enter the busy Christmas post period, when presents, perhaps money and other valuables are transported through the postal system. We also need a review of safety measures to ensure that postal workers themselves are protected,” Mr Carey said.

“The alarming rise in postal bag robberies is an issue which requires swift and decisive action from the Government and the minister for justice in particular. Prospective criminals must not see our dedicated postal workforce as soft targets for criminal gain,” he warned.

A Garda source said: “Thieves often target rubbish bins outside homes and apartment blocks looking for people’s personal details, but this could be a whole new direction for these culprits.

“Postmen are easy enough targets and most of these incidents have been localised and opportunistic. There doesn’t appear to be any confrontation.”

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