Protect your personal checks

By Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: May 01 2014 08:28:33 PM EDT
Updated On: May 02 2014 06:45:00 AM EDT

Next time you are about to write a personal check to tip someone,  take caution - that is the advice of postal inspectors and a woman who found out the hard way.

"I was really disappointed that it happened to me," said Maureen Webster.

Webster still can't believe an identity thief stole thousands of dollars from her.  The most frustrating part was that she knew the thief.  It was her newspaper delivery guy.

"In my mind, he was a nice hard working man, never thinking, I never thought twice about tipping a newspaper delivery person with a personal check," she said.

She will from now on.

"He decided to make some additional checks that looked like mine and he decided to welcome himself to all of the money in my bank account," Webster explained.

But the story didn't end with fraudulent checks.

"They filed fraudulent tax returns for 2012, they filed fraudulent state income tax returns for 2012, they got into my Fidelity account and tried to take out $10,000," she said.

How did the delivery guy access all this information?

"It amazes me that somehow all this information is in cyber space, with just a name and address he was able to find out all the information," said Webster.

She was not alone. Postal inspectors say a ring of newspaper delivery guys stole millions of dollars from more than 400 victims.

"Add zeros where they shouldn't be added, cash checks on their accounts and then put in change of address of the people - getting the mail delivered to his house, get bank statements and enter into their bank accounts and engage in account takeovers," said US Postal Inspector Ryan Noonan.

After a few months, the suspect was arrested.

"He wasn't hard to find. He was smart enough to figure out how to write checks out of peoples accounts but he wasn't smart enough to NOT write his name and address on his… he basically led them right to him," said Webster.

Postal inspectors want to remind you to check your bank statements to make sure the check amounts match. If you wrote a check for $30, make sure there's not a bank debit of $300 or $3,000 instead.  And if you bank online, you can do it a lot more frequently than that once-a-month statement.

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