A recent local newspaper article described an identity theft method you don’t hear of too often. However, this method happens a lot, and it can cause you a lot of problems.
Stealing mail is much easier than stealing garbage, because mail is clean, and it’s much simpler to sort through and get what you want.
The man in this story stole mail from a woman’s mailbox, including a check to pay for her cable TV bill. He not only changed the payee to himself, but he also increased the check amount by $200!
He was only caught because of a suspicious bank teller. He would have been very hard to track down, but the bank had him on surveillance video, as well as having his driver license number (used for ID to cash the check).
When they found him, he had more than $20,000 worth of stolen checks in his possession. It’s unclear how long the thefts had been going on, but they believe he simply drove through neighborhoods looking for mailboxes with the flags up.
They also found him with drug paraphernalia, so he probably needed the checks as a quick way to get money for drugs.
Only a few victims have come forward. If this happens to you, it may takes weeks before you discover it. Maybe certain bills don’t get paid, and you get late notices and fees. Or some other form of identity theft takes place, such as a bogus check being cashed, or money being charged to your credit card.
If a thief alters your check and uses it to buy something through the mail, many state attorneys won’t try to prosecute these cases. They say they won’t prosecute because, unlike a check that is used to buy something in a retail store, when a check is sent through the mail, you can’t prove who sent or wrote the check – you don’t actually see the check writer, so there is no store clerk or other witness that can identify a suspect.
If the flag is up on your mailbox, that is a giant signal to anyone walking or driving by, that there is mail they can take out before the mailman arrives.
Thieves will also steal mail after it’s delivered. One popular method they use is to pry open cluster boxes at apartment and housing developments.
After your mail is stolen they can use whatever information they find for identity theft – your full name, address, phone number, bank account and other account numbers, social security numbers, etc. They can use that information to open bogus accounts, buy things online, and other forms of identity theft.
If you have an IP security camera you can also get an alert sent to your cell phone or computer.
I think it’s better and safer to have all your mail sent to a P. O. Box.