HOUSTON - Some West Houston residents fear even as they are out of work and struggling through this COVID-19 crisis someone may have stolen their identity.
There is now a federal investigation underway after an apartment complex mailbox was broken into. Whoever broke the lock on the mailbox could face several years in prison.
Residents at Brisa At Shadowlake Apartments are afraid much more than mail was taken when someone busted into their community mailbox. "It’s horrible because when it comes to identity theft that is a huge problem,” says Brisa Resident Ernest Uti. They’re not sure if thieves were looking for information to take their identity, checks or credit cards.
"I’m very concerned because I was expecting something in the mail as far as a credit card. So I’m like where’s my card and it says it shipped but I don’t have it,” says resident Debria Chavis who hasn’t worked since her company shut down in March due to the COVID-19 crisis. She was counting on that credit card to help. Now it may have been stolen.
“Mail Theft is a federal crime,” explains U.S. Postal Inspector Julie Nicholson-Morgan who says postal inspectors are aware and investigating. She has these tips for residents. "Don’t let your mail accumulate in your mailbox. Make sure you’re getting it as quickly as you can after it’s been delivered but definitely by the end of the day".
She also suggests signing up for Informed Delivery where the Post Office emails you an image of the mail being delivered to you. "So you know exactly what pieces of mail are supposed to be in your mailbox".
Some residents of the gated apartment community on Westheimer near Dairy Ashford say they also have friends in the area who’ve had their mailboxes broken into.
"If they can install cameras around the mailboxes that can serve as a deterrent,” says Uti. Residents hope the complex will also add better lighting and an additional security officer.
The punishment for mail theft is five years in prison. "We do take this crime seriously. We want to protect the mail and our customers and make sure they’re getting what they’re supposed to be getting in the mail and we will investigate and we will find you,” says Nicholson-Morgan.
We reached out to apartment management but haven’t heard back yet. The complex has emailed residents with tips on what to do now, such as inform their bank and the credit bureaus that their personal information may have been comprised.
Anytime a mailbox is broken into the U.S. Postal Inspection Service wants you to report it to them in addition to the police. You can report it at www.USPIS.gov or by calling the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.