Posted at: 06/24/2013 3:27 PM
Updated at: 06/24/2013 6:14 PM
As technology advances, criminals are finding new ways to steal your money. All it takes is a credit card number or a social security number and identity thieves can take over your accounts and rack up huge expenses before you ever realize it.
Carla Mendez, U.S. Postal Inspector, said, "The bad guys are calling in with all the personal identifying information of the victims."
And once they do, they essentially can get access to your credit card account. They can add themselves as users, get their own card with their name on it and start charging on your account.
Menedez said, "The bad guys are going in and buying electronic and going to pawn shops to get cash."
Postal inspectors seized many large ticket items purchased in one scam including big screen TVS and video game systems. In one case, losses totaled $120,000. But inspectors got a big break.
Menedez said, "The bad guy wasn't very smart in this case. He purchased two MoneyGram money orders from a local merchant and when he went in to purchase the money order, he actually wrote his real name and his real address down on the money order."
That led them to the suspect's home.
Menedez said, "Through our investigations, we were able to find the victim's credit card in the suspect's trash."
And this is one of many cases.
Account takeover fraud was up dramatically in 2012, totaling $4.9 billion, a 69% increase over 2011.
Some advice from postal inspectors is to safeguard your personal information at all times.
Menedez said, "One thing we always recommend is to check your credit report once a year to make sure nothing fraudulent has happened to your credit."
There are a couple of other things you can do to protect yourself. First, never carry your Social Security card with you, leave it at home in a safe place. Be aware of missed bills which could indicate your account has been taken over. And monitor your credit statements monthly for any fraudulent activity.