BOSTON - When Chris Staros received a text message about a duplicate credit card he didn’t order last year he jumped into action.
“I said, ‘Well where did the card get mailed to?’ They said, ‘To your home address,’” Staros said.
That credit card never arrived.
“What I didn’t realize was that they had impersonated me and opened up an informed delivery account at the United States Postal Service,” Staros said.
Informed Delivery is a feature offered by the U.S. Postal Service that allows individuals to digitally preview their mail before it arrives.
Staros said in his case it was the criminals previewing his mail. They were also redirecting some of it to another address. He immediately shut down the account.
“It is scary to know that you’re that vulnerable,” Staros said.
He said that because nothing was stolen the police couldn’t do much.
But the thieves weren’t done with Staros. When his home phone stopped working a few weeks ago, the phone company alerted him to a new problem.
“They realized that my home phone number had been ported away,” Staros said.
The phone company told him the crooks had used his phone number to log into his email and change his passwords.
“I got locked out of my email. They were trying to get a hold of my cellphones so that in the end they would be me and I wouldn’t be me,” Staros said.
A new credit card was sent to them.
When Staros called to cancel it, he was stunned when the customer service agent told him his account was being hacked at that moment.
“He said, ‘Oh crap, they’re changing your information back to where they had it as we speak. I can see them doing it online. They are inside your system right now,’” Staros said.
In the end the crooks only managed to get $41.87. Staros believes keeping tabs on his credit and having a credit freeze saved him.
Consumer Advocate Lori Silverman, says Staros is right.
“They weren't able to use his identity to open up bank accounts or new credit cards or any of that in his name,” Silverman said.
She suggested setting up an informed delivery account for yourself and every person in your household.
“Because once you open up an account, no one else can open one up in your name,” Silverman said.
ADVICE FROM THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
The U.S. Postal Service tells Boston 25 News, the agency investigated nearly 3,000 cases of mail theft in the last two years. That includes all forms of mail theft, not just theft using Informed Delivery.
USPS went on to say creating a fraudulent account is illegal and punishable by law.
Customers have two options available to report a potentially fraudulent Informed Delivery account or to block their address:
1. Report it online.
2. Call Technical Support at 800-344-7779.
Emily Spera, a U.S. Postal Inspector with the Boston Division told Boston 25 News:
“The Postal Service’s Informed Delivery is in full compliance with federal privacy laws and was launched in close coordination with USPS’ Privacy Office, the Chief Information Security Office, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, whose sole mandate is to safeguard the entire Postal Service system. Informed Delivery is a secure platform designed on industry standards and best practices.”
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