Is Your Mailbox a Lure for Identity Theft?

ByABC News via logo
February 17, 2004, 7:25 AM

Feb. 17 -- Your mailbox may be the key to your personal fortune, and thieves know it. The Federal Trade Commission estimates 400,000 Americans have had their mail and their identities stolen.

"I called the post office and they said that there was mail that was delivered to my home on that Friday," said Barbara, a mail theft victim who wanted her full name withheld.

"So, I contacted the police and made a report."

Barbara then took her inquiry a step further, and decided to do some investigating of her own. She took out her handheld video camera and stationed herself in a window of her home to try to catch the thief stealing her mail on tape.

At first, Barbara's enthusiasm got the better of her, and the video did not turn out as clearly as it could. But later that week she caught the thief in the act again.

"And sure enough, I got her stealing the mail," Barbara said. "It doesn't belong to her. It belongs to me!"

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 400,000 Americans last year had their mail stolen, and subsequently became the victims of identity theft. That was just a number to Barbara and some other residents of the neighborhoods around Cherry Hill, N.J., until they, too, became the victims of a mail thief.

"This thief was trying to steal my identity," Barbara said. "And I was very angry. And I wanted to get this person, very badly."

A Thief Is Caught

Monica F., the woman who stole Barbara's mail, did indeed get caught. She admitted that between February and June of last year, she stole credit cards, checks and mail from townspeople in and around Cherry Hill, N.J. She said she felt like she had no choice.

"I got desperate and didn't know where to turn," Monica told Good Morning America, speaking out for the first time. "So I did what I did. I just didn't know where to turn."

Police say that Monica cashed stolen checks, withdrew money from victims' bank accounts and, on the very day Terri McCreesh buried her mother, stole and charged almost $400 on McCreesh's credit card.