WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A Call Kurtis investigation exposed a weakness with the postal service that could forward your mail straight to crooks’ hands.
It is a crime impacting tens of thousands of people each year and we exposed it can only take seconds for the bad guys fill out the postcard for mail forwarding, drop it in the mailbox, and your mail goes to them.
Now we have new information on the number of complaints to United States Postal Service that reach into the thousands.
When someone forwarded Frank and Rebecca Ronquillo’s mail without their permission, the bad guys ended up with Frank’s social security number and his blood pressure medicine.
“It’s gotta be stopped,” said Frank.
We tested it out for ourselves, filling out a mail-forwarding postcard with our producer’s information, and eight days later her mail started coming to the station.
We then brought the results of our test to the postal inspector back in 2016.
Ming: “It was that simple?
US Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch: “Hmmm. Well, that’s something again we’ll have to look at.”
It is a weakness the agency has known about for a decade. A 2008 audit by the Office of Inspector General’s says, “If left unmitigated, could contribute to identity theft.”
Ming: “How could the postal service allow something like this to happen?”
Fitch: “What they’re taking advantage of is systems we have in place for customer convenience.”
Ming: “That convenience comes, with a huge inconvenience, if you’re a victim?”
Fitch: “That’s correct.”
Fitch struggled to produce the number of victims, so CBS pulled federal records under the Freedom Of Information Act.
We found more than 17,000 complaints to the postal inspector over the span of one year, and the postal service is hearing about the possibility of 46,000 more cases.
“That should not be the case. It should never have been the case,” said Congressman Jerry McNerney from Stockton.
After our initial investigation, Congressman McNerney pressed the postal inspector for better mail security. Though McNerney says, he’s even struggled to get answers from the postal inspector.
McNerney says, “Under threat of being hauled to Washington under the spotlights to answer questions about your agency’s performance, you’re gonna wanna be more responsive.”
Rebecca and Frank hope so because they blame the postal service for them having to watch their credit for the rest of their lives.
“They need to do a better job protecting our mail,” says Rebecca, “Nobody’s safe. Nobody’s mail’s safe.”
It is a federal crime to commit mail fraud, but they have to catch you.
One idea for a possible fix is to require people come into the post office with a photo ID if they want to forward their mail.
Just this past Friday, Congressman McNerney sent another letter to requesting a federal oversight hearing.
McNerney told us, “Identity theft is a serious crime that can financially cripple its victims. I’m continuing to push the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to hold a hearing on this important issue, to bring this problem to light and begin a discussion about potential solutions. I have followed up on my original request to former Chairman Chaffetz and look forward to hearing from Chairman Gowdy soon in response to my request.”
The U.S. Postal Service has a 24-hour number to report postal crime. It’s (877) 876-2455.