We are constantly giving you advice from investigators, Postal inspectors and others on how to avoid being a victim of a scam. Now, we are hearing from a former thief who reveals the things you are doing wrong that make you an easy target.
"I had a problem with drugs and as my addiction grew as my money and necessity grew. I heard about people stealing mail and making counterfeit checks," explained Mary, who is a former drug addict and criminal, now hoping her story will help others.
Mary says with stolen account information, she would print up fake checks and ID cards to match. She says getting the information was easy.
"Through stealing mail, through bank dumpsters, through garbage behind car loan places. Places like that may have your information and then throw it away," she explained.
Mary says on a slow day, she would cash $500 in counterfeit checks. On a good day, $2,000. In all, 250 victims were scammed out of almost $50,000.
"We said we would get to a certain amount of money and we would stop. But it never seemed we got to that, if we got there, we needed more. It's an illusion," said Mary.
Mary and her husband were arrested. She spent more than two years in jail and says she now wants to make amends.
"I want to tell you – that is the reason I wanted to do this – is because it was so easy," said Mary.
As for her victims, "They were upset by the monetary loss but moreover, about their good name being trashed. It takes a significant amount of time and energy to get your name cleared," explained U.S. Postal Inspector David Birch.
If you have a mailbox, Mary has some advice.
"If you're going to be out of town, don't let your mail pile up."
Also, she says ask questions.
"If you use a bank, make sure they shred your information. If you're using auto title loans or any business that is going to take your personal information, ask them ahead of time, 'How do you dispose of my information?'"
Mary says her drug addiction made her do desperate things and she apologizes to the victims of her crimes.
"I used this in a letter to my judge that remorse is defined as a deep, moral, anguish and regret and that is an understatement of how I feel," said Mary.
The US Postal Service says everyone should follow Mary's advice and take every precaution possible to keep their personal financial information secure and out of the hands of scam artists.
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