Identity Theft on the Rise - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/06/04

Identity Theft on the Rise

Your junk mail could be someone else's treasure. Your junk mail could be someone else's treasure.

Identity theft is a growing problem that's costing Americans millions of dollars. Every day, more people are becoming victims, and the worst part is, many of these crimes can be prevented. It's as simple as not leaving mail lying around. What may be junk mail for you, might be very valuable to someone else.

The post office sorts through thousands of pieces of mail every day, and after it goes into your PO box, chances are you do some sorting of your own. When it comes to junk mail, the story is usually the same: throw it in the trash.

Johannes Jones has been a box clerk for the postal service for nearly four decades and has witnessed potential identity theft many times. "I see people going thru the trash," he told us.

WTOC's cameras captured dozens of important documents like health insurance records, even bank statements, in the trash. Proof that your mail may eventually end up as money is someone else's pocket.

Det. Robert Chandler with Savannah-Chatham police told us, "It will ruin your life or make it very difficult. It will take years to get it straightened out."

With just a name and address, strangers can get any information they want about you. But police say there is a simple solution: buy a shredder. "They are only 30 to 40 dollars," said Det. Chandler. "It will save you a lot of heartache in the long run."

For that mail you get a the post office, Jones advised customers to "tear it up and take it home."

The Savannah-Chatham Police Department get 15 to 20 reports of identity theft every week. 

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

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