Identity Theft: Thieves Stealing Your Mail

Even though technology is making it easier for thieves to steal your identity, criminals are still using simpler tactics.  This includes stealing your mail.  The tax season is only making thieves keep a closer eye on your mail since they know you might be mailing a check to the IRS.  However, they don't just watch your mailbox during tax season.

"It has happened," Sgt. Harold McClure with the Wichita Falls Police Department said.

Thieves know many people write checks to pay their bills or get them in the mail.  So, they drive through neighborhoods looking at the mailboxes.  If it's on the side of the road, you are an easy target.  They simply drive by, open your mailbox, and steal everything inside.  Then they will shuffle through it later to see if they can use anything to steal your identity.

"A bill that comes in is going to have your information on it," Sgt. McClure said, "If you get credit card statements in your mail it's going to have your information on it."

He said thieves will even look at your medical records that come in the mail, since it has your information on it.  Criminals are also looking for checks that you either receive in the mail, or mail out.

"It is possible where they can take a check, whether it's a personal check, whether it's a business check and they're able to alter it in ways or just cash it just the way it is," Sgt. McClure said.

He said one of the problems when you mail something out through your mailbox is you put up the red flag.

"Not only does that alert the mailman that you've got something in there, it's alerting everyone else that there's something in there to be picked up," he said.

So take some simple steps to protect yourself.

"The day and time that we live in, everything is done on the computer," Sgt. McClure said, "Everything is electronic."

So as he suggested, do online banking and pay your bills online.  Also, make sure you are checking your mailbox every day.  If you plan on mailing out a check do not leave it in your mailbox.

"Be mindful when your mail comes and be ready for it," Sgt. McClure said.

Something else, consider getting a mailbox with a locking device.

He said, "You have to have certain elements for a crime to take place."

He explained, there has to be the individual that's going to commit the crime.

"Then they have to have the opportunity," he said.

Finally, they have to have the desire to commit the crime.

"So, if you remove one, just one of the elements, then the offense doesn't take place," Sgt. McClure said.

Another piece of advice.  Be careful what you throw away if your trash.  Don't just crumple up your statements, bills, documents, etc.  Sgt. McClure said you should invest in a shredder.

If you do notice anything suspicious, like a car constantly driving by, or you think you have become a victim, call police.  Don't try to handle the situation on your own.

"If it turns out to be something serious now we're in a position where we can take action," Sgt. McClure said.  

, Newschannel 6