ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - There’s an identity theft scam with a new twist is hitting St. Louis: packages you never ordered, sent to your home, and stolen from your porch.
You don't even know it, until you get the bill.
Fox 2’s Andy Banker leaving his house for work a few days ago and there was a big screen TV at the front door shipped to his address, in his name, and billed to a credit account he never opened.
It’s a different “M-O” from what police typically see which involves people following delivery drivers or simply scouring neighborhoods for packages on front porches and stealing them, not knowing what’s inside.
In this case, the thieves knew what they were getting and when they were getting it.
“The packages were ordered in your name delivered to your home,” said St. Louis Police Detective Carl Dulay. “Just so someone could take it off that front porch.”
It was Sony 48” flat screen smartTV shipped by online retailer, Montgomery Ward. A couple of days after the TV arrived, a bill came: close to $1,150 dollars for the TV plus close to $158 dollars for shipping, for a total of more than $1,300 billed to Andy Banker via an account he never opened.
Police have had similar reports recently in St. Louis and St. Louis County.
Whoever set up the phony accounts also arranged for someone to take the delivered items before the victims ever knew they were there.
“Without a doubt. It’s a form of identity theft,” Dular said. “Identity theft is problem not only here in the St. Louis area, but in other areas. There’s something to gain by this. If they are successful in picking up 1 out of 4 TV’s during the course of a week, that’s obvious gain for that person.”
It was a $9billion dollar criminal enterprise yearly in the U.S., he said.
Luckily in his case, Andy saw the TV before the thieves did. He immediately alerted Montgomery Ward. The company closed the account and had the TV shipped back at no cost to Andy.
Still, it was hardly the end of the matter for Andy or any other victims, police said. Catching the thieves was not easy, police added.
“It is a very sophisticated process, when someone is sitting behind a laptop or computer at unknown location and they’re enlisting a credit card application in your name … what you need to begin with is looking at your credit reports, ensuring that each entry on your credit reports belongs to you,” Dulay said.
This is a crime, so report to it to police, he stressed.
Victims should also notify the big 3 credit reporting agencies. If you give them a police report number, they'll put a "fraud alert" on your report for up to 7 years, letting creditors know you're a victim of identity theft and that they need to make sure "it's you" before issuing any more credit cards.
Everyone with credit should monitor their cards and credit reports frequently to help guard against Identity theft, he said.