CLEVELAND - Next time you are about to write a personal check to tip someone, you may want to think twice.
"I was really disappointed that it happened to me,” said Maureen Webster, who still can't believe an identity thief stole thousands of dollars from her. It was her newspaper delivery guy who she tipped with a personal check.
"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," explained Webster.
And it didn't stop there. "They filed fraudulent tax returns for 2012,” Webster said. “They filed fraudulent state income tax returns for 2012. They got into my Fidelity account and tried to take out $10,000," she added.
How did he access all of this information? "It amazes me that somehow all this information is in cyberspace, with just a name and address he was able to find out all the information," she said with surprise.
Maureen 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,” described U.S. Postal Inspector Ryan Noonan. “Getting the mail delivered to his house, get bank statements and enter into their bank accounts and engage in account takeovers," he further explained.
After a few months, police arrested the man. “He wasn't hard to find,” said Webster. “He was smart enough to figure out how to write checks out of people's accounts, but he wasn't smart enough to not write his name and address on his… he basically led them right to him," she added.
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 it doesn't come back at $300 or $3,000 instead.
And if you bank online, you can check it a lot more frequently than that once-a-month statement.