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Manteca Police Warn Residents Junk Mail Thieves Searching Trash For Identity Theft Material

MANTECA (CBS13) — Manteca Police say scavengers are rummaging through the trash, pulling out mail and selling it to identity thieves.

Bags of junk mail are going for about $25 apiece, police say, and thieves are using the information to open credit cards and accounts.

While there is already a state law that says it's illegal to go through someone's recycling bins, the city of Manteca wants to have similar rules for criminals who dig through the trash.

Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion says criminals steal junk mail from trash trans and can either sell it or use it themselves to steal your identity.

"While we think it may be $25 for just a bag, they can charge $1,000 worth of product, have it sent to an address, you get the mail, they get the product," he said.

Jene Clinkenbeard says that's just what happened to him.

"Earlier this year we had a credit card put into our name and we've had about $800 charged to it," he said. "We've had people coming into our yard, even into our backyard, cutting open our bags and ripping through all the trash."

Obligacion outlines the danger of these scavengers.

"If you take each individual piece it may not be an issue, but if you take one particular can and you have multiple pieces of what we would say is 'junk mail,' they can put those three, four, five pieces of mail together and come up with your identity," he said, "apply for credit cards, a department store or online catalog accounts."

He says it's not just experienced hackers who can pull it off; any criminal in the business of stealing can gain access.

"We've done search warrants on particular houses for, say for instance drugs, and we come across large bags of mail that's addressed to everybody except the people that are in the house," he said. "We've recovered stolen vehicles where we've found mail that has been in the vehicle that doesn't belong to registered owner of vehicle."

The city hopes to make digging through someone's garbage a crime, but the chief says residents still have to take proactive steps to keep your information out of reach, including shredding mail.

The City Council will have a first reading at Tuesday's meeting, and the ordinance could go into effect in January.

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