Warning: Protect yourself from the Tampa Bay mail scam

Posted at 4:29 AM, Jun 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-09 07:17:38-04

A few days before Memorial Day, her mail stopped. After the holiday, still no mail. Concerned and bewildered, Donna, a widowed teacher in Sebring, went to the post office to find out what the problem was...

It was a doozy: Someone had filled out a change of address form in her name.

She was being scammed. The new address was for a vacant house all the way down in Plantation. She called authorities; contacted her credit card companies to alert them of possible fraud. She just recently started getting her mail again -- but a bank statement, the one piece of mail that worries her the most, is still missing.

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"Every day I walk to my mailbox anxious to get my mail," says Donna, "hoping my bank statement is in there."

Both the Sebring Sheriff and Bay Area Postal Inspectors say reports of the "change of address" scam are on the rise in our region. Standard protocol for change of address is for confirmation letters to be sent to both the new address and the old one. Donna is still waiting to get hers; the scammers could have something to do with that, too.

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Donna did everything right in reporting the crime: Contact the post office, authorities and credit card companies. She's also become much more vigilant about her mailbox. Sadly, lifting the flag to signal outgoing mail is now a no-no; criminals look for that as sign to steal your mail, not just money but identity-theft information such as social security and bank routing numbers.

If you order new checks, have them sent to your bank -- not your home -- to be picked up there.