Consumer Alert: Writing checks for tips can make you a theft victim

Next time you are about to write a personal check to tip someone, be careful. U.S. Postal Inspectors warn writing the check could cost you more than you ever intended.

"I was really disappointed that it happened to me," says victim Maureen Webster.

An identity thief stole thousands of dollars from her. The suspect was her newspaper delivery guy.

"In my mind, he was a nice hard working man, never thinking, I never thought twice about tipping a newspaper delivery person with a personal check," says Webster."He decided to make some additional checks that looked like mine and he decided to welcome himself to all of the money in my bank account."

The story didn't end with fraudulent checks.

"They filed fraudulent tax returns for 2012, they filed fraudulent state income tax returns for 2012, they got into my Fidelity account and tried to take out $10,000," says Webster. "It amazes me that somehow all this information is in cyber space, with just a name and address he was able to find out all the information."

Webster wasn't alone. Postal inspectors say a ring of newspaper delivery guys stole millions of dollars from more than 400 victims.

"Add zeros where they shouldn't be added, cash checks on their accounts and then put in change of address of the people, getting the mail delivered to his house, get bank statements and enter into their bank accounts and engage in account takeovers," says U.S. Postal Inspector Ryan Noonan.

After a few months, the suspect was arrested.

"He wasn't hard to find. He was smart enough to figure out how to write checks out of peoples accounts but he wasn't smart enough to not write his name and address on his," says Webster. "He basically led them right to him."

Postal inspectors say to check your bank statements to make sure the check amounts match. If you wrote a check for $30, make sure there's not a bank debit of $300 or $3,000 instead. If you bank online, you can do it a lot more frequently than that once a month statement.

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