These days, it's so easy for identity thieves to get their hands on your personal information. Stealing checks out of someone's mailbox is a federal crime. It's like stealing directly from the post office. Investigators say that's exactly what happened in these cases.
One by one, they were caught on camera -- two unidentified women and a man were seen walking into a store where they went on a shopping spree using someone's stolen identity along with their money.
"They're organized and they are effective," said Katherine Cabannis with Crime Stoppers.
In one case, the group cleaned out a 67-year-old woman's checking account after making multiple unauthorized purchases using stolen and counterfeit checks. In a second case, a couple in their 60's had several checks stolen from their mailbox that were supposed to be picked up by the postman. A few days later, the elderly couple learned the same group of suspects allegedly used those forged checks to buy more stuff.
"They create fake accounts. They use those routing numbers and use those banks to steal right out of your account. They can reach into that bank and take your money using those old checks that you were simply trying to mail in to pay your bills," Cabannis said.
Now authorities are asking for your help to get these career criminals off the streets. They believe the three victims who were scammed by the trio may be just the tip of the iceberg. They say no matter what, it's never a good idea to leave checks sitting in your mailbox for the mailman to pick up.
"Be sure you deliver those envelopes to the post office and drop them in the box yourself. We recognize that it's too easy for identity thieves to shop around these days, steal those checks and then use them to steal from you," said Cabannis.
Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for any information called in to the 713-222-TIPS (8477) or submitted online at www.crime-stoppers.org that leads to the filing of felony charges or arrest of the suspect(s) in this case. Tips can also be sent by text message. Text TIP610 plus your tip to CRIMES (274637). All tipsters remain anonymous.