Consumer Alert: Home video helps authorities catch mail thieves
Home video catches theives stealing mail from victim's mailboxes.
A family in Florida noticed some discrepancies in their mail which prompted them to start videotaping their mailbox outside their home. What they discovered will hit home and make you understand why your mail is so valuable to identity thieves.
Home video taken by Simone Khalin shows a man driving up to her mailbox and removing the envelopes inside.
"We felt like we needed to do something," says Simone Khalin, a fraud victim. "We did tape them putting their hand in our mailbox."
Khalin and her family began finding pieces of their mail in the road. They also started finding envelopes addressed to different names in their mailbox. They knew something was wrong.
"We felt like these people were waiting for the mailman to drop off the mail in the mailbox and they were right away after and gone in two seconds," says Khalin.
That's when the Khalins decided to videotape their mailbox. Their instinct was right.
"Lucky for us, we were able to get video from the victim where it showed the actual suspect reaching into, not only their mailbox, but the mailbox of their neighbors across the street," says Reldys Torres, a U.S. Postal Inspector.
Postal inspectors were quickly able to track down the truck, the suspects and unravel the scam.
"They would take your mail, your bank statements, your W2 forms, or information if you were in the hospital," says Torres. "That information would then have your name, account number, bank, and address. With a couple of phone calls they would re-order credit cards, debit cards, and your PIN number and have it mailed back to the same address."
Since the mail was being delivered to the same address as the legitimate bank or credit card holder, the bank never suspected anything was wrong.
"At ATM's, they would withdraw money," says Torres. "Obviously, at stores they would buy high end computer equipment, iPads, phones for resale value."
Consumers often don't know their identity has been stolen until their next bank statement arrives a month later.
"By the time the victims realize what was going on it was 30 days past and the credit card was already used or maxed out," says Torres. "It's gone and on to the next victim."
In all, 50 victims lost $150,000.
Postal inspectors have some important advice.
"If they do see someone in their mailbox that is not a mailman, contact us immediately. Contact the police immediately," says Torres.
Postal inspectors say the three suspects in this mail fraud and ID theft ring were well known to law enforcement. The mastermind of the scheme was sentenced to seven years in prison. One of the other suspects received a three year prison sentence, and the third suspect received a sentence of two years behind bars.