Consumer Alert: Another example of why it is so important to protect your personal information. As technology advances, criminals are finding new ways to steal your money.
Carla Menedez, a US Postal Inspector, says, "The bad guys are calling in with all the personal identifying information of the victims."
Once they do that, they essentially can get access to your credit card account. They can add themselves as users, get their own car with their name on it and start charging on your account.
Menedez says, "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 televisions and video game systems.
In one case, losses totaled more than $120,000, but inspectors got a big break.
Menedez says, "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 inspectors right to the suspect's home.
Menedez says, "Through our investigations we were able to find the victim's credit card in the suspect's trash."
This is one of many cases. Account takeover fraud was up dramatically in 2012 totaling $4.9 billion, a 69% increase from 2011.
Some advice from Postal Inspectors is safeguard your personal information at all times.
"One thing we always recommend," says Menedez, "is to check your credit report once a year to make sure nothing fraudulent has happened to your credit."
Also, never carry your Social Security card with you. Leave it at home in a safe place.