Scammer finds creative ways to steal identities


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – There are some things you need to know to avoid ending up a victim of identity theft. U.S. postal inspectors say one specific case out of St. Louis, Missouri, should set off alarm bells.

"She will pose herself as either she's from a utility company or a telephone company, wireless company and she'll tell the elderly victim that, 'Hey, you know, you have a nominal fee, like $4.55, you owe in order for your service not to be shut off today. You got to go ahead and pay it,'" Inspector Jamie Portell said.

The caller then offers to take the victim's credit card information.

"She tries to use social engineering just to obtain other personal identifying information, whether it be date of birth, social security number, all those types of things," said Portell.

Once she gets that information, the identity thief calls the victim's credit card company.

"She adds herself on as an authorized user, she changes the billing address and has a second card mailed to her. And then from there she'll go out and make fraudulent purchases underneath that person's credit card," Portell explained.

Postal inspectors say a suspect running a scam like this one conned more than 70 victims out of thousands of dollars.

"She's made over $100,000 doing this scam in a matter of a couple of years, so no reason to go out and work when you can make that kind of money just talking on the phone," Portell added.

Inspectors say the suspect's strategy led to the large number of victims.

"The reason being is most people are more likely to say, 'Oh OK, I'll go ahead and pay that right now. I have $4.22 on my bank card.' So that way they are going to use something small that you are more willing to say, 'Oh, I'm going to pay that right now and be done so I don't lose my service,'" explained the inspector.

Authorities said if you receive a call from someone asking for your credit card number, hang up and call them back.

"The company is not going to just call you and say, 'Hey, we're going to shut your service off today' without you prior knowing that already, like being late on a bill," warned Portell.

Postal inspectors want to remind all consumers to check their monthly credit card statements or check accounts more often online, which will allow you to identify any discrepancies right away.