How to avoid account takeover fraud

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- How secure is your personal information? FOX6's Contact 6's Katrina Cravy says criminals are using new technology to pick your pocket.

"The bad guys are calling in with all the personal identifying information of the victims," U.S. Postal Inspector Carla Menedez said.

Once they do that, they can essentially gain access to your credit card account. They can add themselves as users to get their own card with their name on it and start charging your account.

"The bad guys are going in and buying electronic and going to pawn shops to get cash," Menedez said.

Postal inspectors seized many large ticket items purchased in one scam, including big screen TVs and video game systems.

In one case, losses totaled $120,000, but inspectors got a big break.

"The bad guy wasn`t very smart in this case. He purchased two Money Gram money orders from a local merchant and when he went in to purchase the money order, he actually wrote his real name and his real address down on the money order," Menedez said.

That led them to the suspect's home.

"Through our investigations, we were able to find the victim`s credit card in the suspect`s trash," Menedez said.

This is one of many cases. Account takeover fraud was up dramatically in 2012 -- totaling $4.9 billion -- a 69% increase over 2011.

Some advice from postal inspectors: Safeguard your personal information at all times.

"One thing we always recommend is to check your credit report once a year to make sure nothing fraudulent has happened to your credit," Menedez said.

Another good tip: Never carry your social security card with you in your wallet. Leave it at home in a safe place.