Scam of the day – August 30, 2017 – Mail carrier pleads guilty to identity theft charges

An Arkansas mail carrier has pleaded guilty to identity theft related charges in federal court and is facing a sentence of up to ten years in federal prison.  Michael Hearns conspired with six other identity thieves who filed phony income tax returns using the names and Social Security numbers of people whose Social Security numbers they stole.  Using counterfeit W-2s, the identity thieves claimed large refunds, which were to be paid through debit cards and checks.  This is where Hearns came in. The phony tax returns used addresses on Hearns’ postal route so when the fraudulent refunds were mailed by the IRS, they were retrieved by Hearns.

TIPS

Income tax identity continues to be a major problem for the IRS although the situation has improved somewhat this year.  The key to protecting yourself from becoming a victim of income tax identity theft is to not only protect the privacy and security of your Social Security number as best you can, but also to file your income tax return as early as possible to prevent an identity thief from filing one and getting a refund before you do.

Scam of the day – July 19, 2017 – Mail identity thief sentenced

Identity theft can be high tech, low tech or no tech.  Stealing mail from mailboxes for purposes of identity theft has been done by identity thieves for years.  Numerous times over the last few years I have warned you about the danger of having your mail, such as credit card bills or bank statements stolen from your personal mailbox.  In addition, many people put themselves in great danger of identity theft by putting their outgoing mail in their mailbox and put up the red flag to alert the postman that there is mail to be picked up.  Unfortunately, that is also an alert to identity thieves cruising the neighborhood of mail to be easily stolen.

Ashley Nicole Leyba of Sacramento, California was recently sentenced to four  years and nine months in prison for her role in an identity theft ring that stole mail and used the information found in the mail to  open credit card accounts and lines of credit.

TIPS

In order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft through your mailbox, you should make sure that it is securely locked so that it is not easily accessed by your friendly neighborhood identity thief and when it comes to outgoing mail, don’t put it in your mailbox for your postal carrier to pick up regardless of how convenient it may be to do so.  In fact, identity thieves have been known to steal mail from the U.S. Postal Service mailboxes found on the corners of major streets so, in order to be safe, you should mail your outgoing mail at the post office.   It may seem like this is being a bit excessive when it comes to protecting your mail, but remember, even paranoids have enemies.

June 21, 2017 – Steve Weisman’s latest column for the Saturday Evening Post

Identity theft can be high tech, low tech or no tech.  Here is a link to a column I wrote for the Saturday Evening Post about the dangers of identity theft posed by your regular snail mail.

Con Watch: How Snail Mail Can Lead to Identity Theft

Scam of the day – April 6, 2017 – New service being offered by the US Postal Service

Starting April 14th you will be able to sign up for a free service of the U.S. Postal Service that will send you an email each morning with images of the mail you will be receiving later that day.  This service had been done on a pilot basis since 2014 in parts of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C..

Identity theft through the stealing of mail such as credit card statements and bank statements from your mailbox is a significant problem and this new program will both alert you as to when to look for important mail, as well as let you know if such important mail has been stolen from your mailbox so you can respond more quickly.

TIPS

Unless you live in one of the areas involved in the pilot program, you cannot sign up for the program until April 14th.  Here is the link to go to sign up.  https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action

It is important to note that if you do sign up for the service, you should use a unique and complex password to prevent identity thieves from hacking your account to let them know when important mail that they can exploit for identity theft purposes will be arriving to your home.