CHICAGO, IL -- Identity theft doesn't get old as a subject for 2 Wants to Know -- because many of us have experienced it first hand. Usually, the thief is some faceless person. But in this case, the thief lived in the neighborhood and had been watching the daily mail delivery.
San Juanita Avina said she went to Wal-Mart and couldn't use her card. The cashier told her 66-year-old father his credit card had been canceled. Avina said, "Why, it's 'maxed out'. I never use my card, how could it be over-maxed?"
Turns out her father's identity had been stolen and the card he rarely used had a $1,000 balance. Wal-Mart started looking into the problem and said multiple cards had been issued for the account - including one to a daughter, "Maria." Avina said, "I called them back and said there is no such person as Maria Avina that is not my name."
The family suspected a long-time neighbor was involved and as they talked to postal inspectors, they learned they were right.
U.S. Postal Inspector Mary Johnson said, "She purposely befriended them, tried to make it look as though she was a caretaker, friend to them, and somebody who was trustworthy."
Postal inspectors say this is a common m.o. for ID thieves.
Johnson said, "She did that in order to obtain their identifying information. So she can become an added user on their current cards and to open up new cards. She had utility bills put in their name for her personal house."
Authorities arrested the ID thief. Avina said, "She thought I was going to leave her alone and just let it go by and not taking care of it. No, uh-uh. No. You did wrong. You abused my dad and now you're abusing me."
Inspectors say we are all vulnerable to identity theft. Johnson said, "There is no set tone of victim right now. It's elderly, children, middle aged, college students, anybody and everybody can be a target of ID theft."
The suspect in this case eventually confessed, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of Aggravated ID Theft and served two years in prison.
Postal inspectors advise all consumers to shred all documents that contain any personal information. Also, ask for a free credit report each year will help consumers find any discrepancies.
There is only one truly free credit report, Annual Credit Report.com.
U.S. Postal Inspectors/WFMY News 2