TAMPA, Fla. — Someone can learn a lot about you, perhaps too much about you, by simply going through your mail.
8 On Your Side is learning how frighteningly easy it is for thieves to reroute your mail to another address and then use your personal information to their advantage.
There are ways to submit a change of address form with the post office without ever having to prove your identity. Tampa Attorney Jim Murman learned that the hard way.
Earlier this month, Murman noticed that none of the magazines he looks forward to arrived in the mail. None of his bills showed up either.
In fact, the only mail the Murmans received in roughly the last month was addressed to his wife. So, he asked his mail carrier about it.
“She says ‘well, we forwarded it just like you requested,'” Murman explained. “I say I never requested that, she says ‘well, someone did!'”
Murman soon learned from the USPS that someone filled out an online change of address form in his name on Jan. 7. Even though they misspelled his last name, for about a month all mail addressed to Murman was sent somewhere else.
“They won’t tell me where it went,” Murman scoffed, recounting his conversation with the postal inspector. “They said ‘that’s confidential.'”
Using Murman’s information and near-perfect credit, the mail thieves opened up four high-light credit cards and managed to spend roughly $11,000 before he realized and reported the fraudulent charges.
“Why they never questioned it, especially with my name misspelled, was a surprise,” he said.
8 On Your Side found out that when sent through the mail, a change of address form can easily be submitted by a stranger without ID.
The online USPS form requires a small payment to verify identity, but in Murman’s case, it clearly didn’t work.
A spokesperson for USPS told 8 On Your Side that a change of address confirmation should have been sent to both the new and old address, alerting Murman to the change sooner. Murman said he never received one
The postal inspection service is investigating, but Murman wants others to be aware of just how easily this could happen to them.
“It could have been much more devastating,” he said.
A postal inspector told 8 On Your Side that this type of fraud occasionally happens but is not a rampant issue in the Tampa Bay area.
While there are many proactive steps people can take to protect themselves, the postal inspector recommended limiting sensitive information in the mail, such as opting for paperless bank and credit card statements.