Mr. Patterson: I'll get it.
Hey, Joyce. Any word yet?
What? I don't understand. What credit cards?
Got any credit cards we don't know about?
Mrs. Patterson: No.
But we never even got a past-due notice.
Maryland? No, there has to be some sort of mistake.
We don't live there. Can we get a copy of the credit report?
That's not our address. Well, who should I talk to? Look, I understand, but...
And the bank? What about the loan? All right. Okay. Thanks for calling.
Mrs. Patterson: What did she say?
Mr. Patterson: They apparently can't approve the loan for the new house.
They say we've got three delinquent credit-card accounts.
Mr. Patterson: That's impossible. We only have the...
Mr. Patterson: Get this. It's not even our address. They're billed to an address in Maryland.
Mrs. Patterson: Maryland?
Mr. Patterson: I know, it's crazy.
Mrs. Patterson: What about the house?
[four months earlier]
[pinball machine sounds]
Man playing pinball: Man... I gotta get me one of these.
Man with computer: It's nice, right? I picked it up last week. It's amazing what you can do with good credit.
Man, check this out. I paid this guy 500 bucks to get me system access to the ISP.
Man playing pinball: Run that by me again in English.
Man with computer: It's simple. I got thousands of E-mail accounts that I got access to.
I can see people's personal stuff that they get without them knowing it.
See this mailbox here, that's this guy named Patterson. Patterson lives over in Wildwood.
He just sent out a file.
You know what that is?
That is a copy of last year's tax return that Señor Patterson was sending to his real-estate agent.
We just take the names and the Social
Security numbers, open up a couple credit cards in his name. Boom!
Man playing pinball: Won't they catch on?
Man with computer: No, man. No, no.
Even if they do, it'll be long after you've got a pinball machine in your crib.
Man playing pinball: Sweet. What can I do?
Man with computer: You can help out with the shopping sprees.
Keep what we want. Pawn the rest.
I love computers.
Guy in bar: We need to stop hitting mailboxes before somebody gets smart.
2nd guy in bar: It's no sweat. You know my new girl, Mandy?
She works in payroll at this big place in Adamsburg. She's gonna start hooking us up.
Employment applications. All kinds of stuff from over there.
Guy in bar: Ain't she gonna know we're up to something?
2nd guy: No, I told her I needed the info for this telemarketing thing I'm doing.
I said it would increase my commissions if I got new names for the list.
"Baby, if they don't want to buy, they can just hang up."
Guy in bar: Sweet.
2nd guy: I told her we wanted applications from the people they didn't hire.
That way, no way it comes back on us.
Guy in bar: You think she's cool?
2nd guy: Hell, yeah, man. She's got a kid and stuff. She don't care where the free dinners are coming from as long as they keep coming.
Guy in bar: That's brutal.
2nd guy: Speak of the devil. There's my baby.
Receptionist: Hi. Can I help you?
Postal Inspector Alan Goddard: I'm Postal Inspector Alan Goddard. I'm looking for Mandy Richards.
Mandy: This is Mandy.
Goddard: Hi. Mandy Richards? I'm Postal Inspector Alan Goddard. This is my partner, Inspector Niece.
Is there someplace we can talk in private?
Mandy: I guess we can go into the break room.
Goddard: Yeah, that'd be fine.
You recognize this man?
Mandy: Yeah, that's my boyfriend, Nick. Is he in trouble?
Inspector Niece: You're both in trouble, Mandy. You want to tell us about the applications you've been giving him?
Mandy: He's been using those to do telemarketing.
[2nd guy in bar: Hooking us up.]
Goddard: What if I told you he's been using them illegally, and he's running a mail-fraud scam?
What if I told you that makes you an accessory to a Federal crime?
Mandy: I don't know anything about that.
Niece: Your boyfriend slipped up, Mandy. He bought a car a few weeks ago on someone else's credit.
Then he sold it for some quick cash, but he forgot to clean it up first. Guess what we found under the seat.
It didn't take long to figure out where he got this.
Mandy: I didn't know. He said no one was gonna get in trouble.
Goddard: Mandy, we believe you. But I'm not sure a jury will.
Why don't you help yourself?
Mandy: Look, I didn't know. I swear. I cannot go to jail. My little girl.
Niece: Be smart, Mandy. We can't promise anything. But we'll tell the U.S. Attorney you cooperated, if you help us with Nick.
Mandy: What do I have to do?
Mandy's boyfriend: Mandy, baby, what's up?
Mandy: Don't come here with that. You've been playing me.
Mandy's boyfriend: What you talking about? I'm straight with you.
Mandy: You keep telling me you're using these for a telemarketing list.
You get a new car every couple months. You move from one nice place to the other.
You don't make that cash talking on the phone.
Mandy's boyfriend: I told you it's all commission.
Plus we got that computer thing. There's those websites.
Mandy: What kind of fool do you think I am? I'm not gonna risk my job so you can spend money on some tramp.
Boyfriend: Baby, it's not like that.
Mandy: Look, I got a kid to think about. Until you cut me in for some of the money, you can forget about these applications.
Boyfriend: Mandy, you know I ain't got no other woman. I don't know what you're talking about.
There's no scam.
Boyfriend's friend, Darrell: Hey, man, we ain't got all day!
Mandy: Did you meet Darrell in church?
Boyfriend: All right look, we got a little thing going.
It's no big deal. We're just opening credit-card accounts in these folks' names, pop them for a few grand at a time.
The credit-card companies cover the money. Nobody's getting hurt.
Mandy: You're crazy. I could go to jail for helping you with this. Who's gonna take care of my girl then?
Boyfriend: Listen, baby, I'm telling you, it's nothing.
It's like we max out these credit cards, right? We keep paying the minimum on the bill. Nobody ever suspects a thing.
I been taking care of you. What do you think's been paying for these clothes?
Mandy: If I risk my neck, you cut me in for some of the green, too.
Boyfriend: No. ... All right, I'll have to ask Darrell about it.
He's not gonna like bringing in anybody new.
Inspector: Our suspect in the car, Darrell Henderson, has priors for weapons charges.
Do this one by the book.
Boyfriend: I said we'll see, all right? Now, I need those names.
Mandy: You got one of those credit cards on you? Give me one. Let me go buy my baby some clothes. That's the least you can do.
We'll talk about everything else later.
Boyfriend: All right, whatever.
Inspector: That's it.
Boyfriend: Here. Now, don't go crazy with that. Don't shop anywhere people know you.
And don't say a word to Darrell about this. Are we cool? Are we cool?
Mandy: Yeah, we're cool.
[police car siren]
[police radio sounds]
Narrator Inspector: Darrell and Nick are serving time in a Federal prison.
Mandy lost her job.
Unfortunately for the Pattersons, it took several months and hundreds of dollars in legal fees to clean up their credit reports and clear their good name.
In the meantime, their dream home was sold to another buyer, and they're struggling to repair the damage done by these crooks.
The really sad thing is it might have been prevented by following four simple steps.
First, deposit all outgoing mail in a blue postal collection box, rather than using your residential mailbox.
In parts of the country, theft from residential mailboxes is a real problem.
Second, shred or burn unwanted preapproved credit applications and financial statements,
old credit cards, and other documents.
Thieves often will go through trash containers or even Dumpsters to find these items and use them to steal your identity.
Third, once a year, order a copy of your own credit report, especially before making large purchases like a new home or car.
Check it carefully for any activity you did not authorize.
Also, check for accounts you might have forgotten to close.
Sometimes thieves take over these old accounts and use them to order new credit cards or checks.
Fourth, limit the amount of personal information that you give out over the telephone and Internet.
Try to ensure you only provide such information to reputable companies, and be sure to read their policies
on confidentiality to be sure they aren't sharing your information with anyone else.
If you think you've been the victim of identity theft, you need to report it. Contact your local United States Postal Inspector.
You can find the number on our website at USPS.COM/POSTALINSPECTORS.
Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America, but it doesn't have to happen to you.