Watch CBS News

Call Kurtis Investigates: Are Scammers Using The Postal Service To Steal Your Identity?

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — We've uncovered how easy it is for bad guys to redirect your personal information right into their hands.

When the mail stopped coming to Frank and Rebecca Ronquillo's house, they got a letter from the U.S Postal Service saying it received a change-of-address order to forward mail.

The Ronquillo's couldn't believe it because they didn't forward their mail.

Rebecca called the postal service to stop it.

"I said, 'Are you serious?'" she said. "Can you tell me where it's being sent?"

They said they couldn't. But the damage had already been done.

Frank's blood pressure medicine and his Medicare card with his Social Security number on it was rerouted. Frank says the bad guys also used his information to try and open a credit card.

"It's gotta be stopped," said Frank.

He's now on edge for a lifetime of possible identity theft.

"It's a big hole in the system, "Rebecca says. "A big leak in the dam, and information is flowing."

We wanted to know, just how easy is it to change an address?

With our investigative producer's permission, I filled out the post office's form to reroute her mail to the TV station. I signed the form with my name and drop it in a mailbox.

Eight days later she gets a letter from the post office at home confirming the address change and her mail starts coming to the T-V station.

That's when we sat down with Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch to tell him of our findings.

Kurtis: "It was that simple."

Jeff Fitch: "Hmmm, Well that's something again we'll have to look at."

Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch says his agency is always evaluating security.

Kurtis: "How could the postal service allow something like this to happen?"

Jeff Fitch: "What they're taking advantage of is systems we have in place for customer convenience."

Kurtis: "That convenience comes, with a huge inconvenience, if you're a victim?"

Jeff Fitch: "That's correct."

Fitch says the postal service relies heavily on people contacting them if they got a notice to put a hold or forwarded their mail if they didn't.

Once the postal office is notified, at that point, he says it becomes a priority investigation.

We were also contacted by another viewer from Stockton, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

He told us he received a hold mail request, which he says he didn't submit. He contacted the post office to let them know he did not fill out the hold mail form. Then he immediately called the police and filed a report.

Not too long after, the suspect was arrested.

According to the Stockton police report, the suspect filled out an authorization to hold mail request.

But because our viewer called up the post office to notify them that he didn't fill out the form, the post office reviewed the form and noticed there was a phone number on it. The local postal inspector called the number and invited the suspect to the Stockton post office.

When the suspect, Vincent Lorenzo Barry, showed up at the post office that's when Stockton police arrested him.

But unfortunately, not before the victim says someone opened a credit card in his name.

We brought our findings to Stockton Rep. Jerry McNerney; he says the post office needs to do more to protect all of us.

Rep. McNerney: "That should not be the case. It should never have been the case."
"What you've shown me and what I've heard it's very easy to go in there and change this and get stuff sent to somewhere else."
"Let's sit down and talk about how we can make customers data more secure."

Kurtis: "How confident are you that you're going to be able to tackle this problem?"

Rep. McNerney: "That's a little hard to answer. I think they'll be responsive because they want people to have confidence in their service."

Our viewers would like to see the change by beginning, to make it tougher to forward someone's mail, by simply filling out a form and dropping it in the mailbox.

Kurtis: "Why not require someone to come into the post office, present that form and have to present a photo ID, to make sure it's that person?"

Jeff Fitch: "Signing the form is a felony. Rerouting the mail is a felony, anything you do after that is multiple felonies."

Kurtis: "But you have to find these people?"

Jeff Fitch: "Yes."

Kurtis: "Your job would be a whole lot easier if there was a check on the front end, instead of having to and find these guys on the back end?"

Jeff Fitch: "What's easy for us is not what's important. What's important, the protection of the customers."

But for the Ronquillos, their private information is out there. They say they will now face a lifetime of watching their credit because the post office didn't protect them.

"They need to do a better job protecting our mail." Rebecca says, "Nobody's safe. Nobody's mail's safe."

We reached out to Frank and Rebecca Ronquillos' Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who sent us this statement:

This type of fraud is a federal offense, and should not be treated lightly. It is absolutely critical that there are procedures in place to protect people from identity theft in their daily lives. The information security landscape has changed, and the systems we have in place need to be updated accordingly. In light of recent cases of criminals improperly using the Change of Address system to commit fraud in Sacramento, I have asked the Postal Service to immediately examine ways it can ensure this system is not abused in the future. Consumer protection is one of my biggest priorities in Congress, and I will continue to monitor this situation at both the local and federal level.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.