What you throw away could make you a target of fraud

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- You trust your neighbors right? You'd never think they would go through your trash -- but FOX6's Contact 6 says it depends on what you put in there.

"The lady said he couldn`t...what do you mean I can`t use my card? She said because it`s canceled. It`s closed," fraud victim San Juanita Avina said.

Avina is describing the frustrating scene at her local Walmart store when her 66-year-old father tried to use his credit card.

"Why, it`s 'maxed out.' I never use my card. How could it be over-maxed?" Avina said.

It turns out Avina's father's identity had been stolen, and the card he rarely used had a $1,000 balance.

Walmart started looking into the problem and said multiple cards had been issued for the account, including one to a daughter named "Maria."

"I called them back and said there is no such person as Maria Avina. That is not my name," Avina said.

The family suspected a long-time neighbor was involved, and as they talked to postal inspectors, they learned they were right.

"She says - in front of me - 'I have another report/complaint on the same individual.' From then on, we took care of business. She was there for us," Avina said.

"She purposely befriended them, tried to make it look as though she was a caretaker, friend to them, and somebody who was trustworthy," U.S. Postal Inspector Mary Johnson said.

Postal inspectors say this is a common MO for thieves.

"She did that in order to obtain their identifying information, so she can become an added user on their current cards and to open up new cards. She had utility bills put in their name for her personal house," Johnson said.

Authorities arrested the ID thief.

"She thought I was going to leave her alone and just let it go by and not take care of it. No. No. You did wrong. You abused my Dad and now you`re abusing me," Avina said.

Inspectors say we are all vulnerable to identity theft.

"It seems to be an ever-evolving crime. There is no set tone of victim right now. It`s elderly, children, middle aged, college students, anybody and everybody can be a target of ID theft," Johnson said.

Contact 6 says if you are going to be throwing away anything personal or financial, it's best to shred it first.

The person involved in this case eventually confessed, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated ID theft and served two years in prison.