Identity Theft, And The Crooks May Be In Our Own Backyard

2 minute read

Roughly two weeks ago, my wife received a letter in the mail informing her that her credit card application had been denied. Since she hadn’t applied for anything, our suspicion was immediately aroused.

She called the company and confirmed that no account had been opened and had the transaction marked as fraudulent. The next step was to place a freeze on her credit to try to prevent any further issues.

Late last week, we got another letter from a different credit card company congratulating her on her new card and letting her know that her new card would be in the mail shortly.

We figured that whoever had applied for the other card had applied for this one at the same time and this application had passed muster. A call to the company got the account closed and marked fraudulent as well.

We kept checking her credit report and nothing new showed up, so we thought we were in the clear.

We get our mail at a cluster of mailboxes that are at various points in our neighborhood.

Yesterday, there was no mail. Very unusual, but not unheard of.

Today, there was no mail. Knowing I had an Amazon delivery waiting, I knew something was wrong. I confirmed with my neighbors that they’d received their mail then headed for the post office.

Up until this point, this had been a crime of annoyance. Things like this are almost the background noise of living in a digital world with easy access to information. What I learned at the post office changed all of that.

I found that someone had gone to the post office and put a hold on our mail — but only the mail addressed to my wife. Luckily, all of our mail was held or we may not have noticed anything wrong since my wife gets so little mail. The hold instructions clearly stated that my “wife” would be picking up the held mail.

This means that there’s someone in my little town or surrounding area committing this crime. This isn’t anonymous anymore. There’s an actual person in driving distance doing this to us. I’m sure we weren’t specifically singled out for this; we may only be one of many. Still, it makes this situation feel personal.

I don’t have any idea how this could have been prevented. The woman at the post office clearly did not believe me when I explained that nobody in our household placed the hold, and the idea of someone placing a hold maliciously wasn’t even in her realm of belief. She almost let me walk out with the bin of held mail without even checking my ID, but then she muttered that I could be a bad guy so she should check, I guess.

Without diligent vetting, anyone can walk into the post office and place a hold on mail. With no vetting at all, someone can go online and place a mail hold on an address. There’s no way that I’ve found online or by talking to the postal clerk that allows you to protect your mail from this kind of tampering. I’d love it if I could fill out something that prevented holds from being placed unless my wife or I did it in person, verified by our IDs.

We’re working with the police, who are hopeful that the crook will show up at some point to pick up the mail, or that they left some kind of trail when placing the hold. Until then, we keep a more diligent eye on everything.