September 10, 2007

Identity Theft, Lo-Tech Style

In recent weeks, people have been moving out of my new apartment building in droves. Was it something I said? Apparently not.

About a month ago, a notice was posted in our mailroom that there has been a theft of mail. I barely read the notice, and did not think about it. Then, a week or so ago, I received my latest monthly telephone, cable and credit card bills. All three bills indicated that my previous monthly payment had not been received. That was odd. I looked at my checkbook, and saw that all three checks had all been written (and presumably mailed) on the same day. I contacted my bank, and they told me that, a month after the fact, the three checks had never shown up.

I had figured that one of two things had happened. Maybe I had forgotten to mail the payments after writing the checks. But that would be a first. The second, and more likely, possibility was that my mail carrier had lost the payments. She had been through one too many Summers of Love in the Sixties, and now she has fewer teeth and brain cells than tattoos. She likes to pick up and deliver our mail while blasting Jefferson Starship and Boston (and pretty much any band with at least one album having a space ship on its cover) at distorted levels from a small cassette player. She probably spends her afternoons burning doobies and then delivering our mail to the dumpster. She was my prime suspect.

But then yesterday, I passed an apartment in mid-moveout, on my floor. I was greeted by a tank of a man who stood about six foot six, capped by a black beret. I figured that he must be one of the movers. As he rocked back and forth on his heels, I remarked to him about the number of people leaving.

"You know why they leaving?" he asked me.
"No. Big rent increases?"
"It's da fraud, man. They all got hit with da fraud."
"What fraud?"
"Somebody stealing the mail. They got all your information, credit card numbers and such."

Of course. Da fraud. Suddenly, it all made sense. My missing mail contained not only my name and address, but also my bank account number, credit card account number, and telephone company and cable tv company account numbers. That is quite a start for an identity and financial information thief.

I then dropped by a neighbor's apartment, told her about my missing checks, and asked her if she had heard about the goings-on. She told me that, come to think of it, she had a check go AWOL about a month ago too.
Then I called my bank and credit card companies to cancel my cards and change account numbers. So far, it does not appear that anyone has run up any charges on any of my accounts, but I don't want to give them a further opportunity.

The irony is that I still quaintly write checks and mail them with a stamp rather than paying bills online because I thought it was safer. Who knew that today's identity thieves still look at people's snail mail?


At 1:13 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Maybe you can figure out a way to catch "da frauders". Those of you who decide not to run could stake out the mailroom and put an end to this lunacy! I find it hard to believe people are so intimidated by a mail thief that they would go to the trouble of moving.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

I agree that moving is both ridiculous and fruitless. All you gain is a new address. I have taken lots of precautions and plan to deliver any future payments to a real mailbox or the post office.


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