BELLE ISLE, Fla. – A new service from the United States Postal Service allows you to preview your mail before it's delivered to your mailbox, but local residents say it has opened them up to mail fraud and identity theft.
Gigi Fotieo says she knew there was a problem when she got credit card statements in the mail.
"I got this bill for $2,000 for a credit card that we never signed up for," she said. "I received three credit cards in the mail, one for me, one for my dad, and one for my mother."
In all, criminals charged about $17,000 in their names, Fotieo said.
Then she got a letter from USPS saying "Welcome to Informed Delivery."
It's a free service, which every day sends you an email with photos of what you'll get in the mail, but there was one problem.
"I never signed up for it," Fotieo said.
Fotieo is certain because the account has an email address she has never seen.
"It was not my email address or anybody in my family's email address," she said. "So right then I knew that somebody else had signed up, using their own email address."
When Fotieo went to Belle Isle police, she found the same thing had happened to her next door neighbors.
"We found out that it was something that was going on in this area," she said.
According to a police report, someone opened fraudulent credit card accounts and charged more than $14,000 and signed her neighbors up for Informed Delivery, too.
Photos of what would be in their mail were going to someone else.
Sgt. Jeremy Millis is investigating.
"The crooks signed up for the Informed Delivery; they would find out about the packages and then they would intercept the packages before the homeowner would even realize a package was delivered," he said.
Police believe the homes might have been targeted because the houses are so far from the street and the mailbox, which means someone could look in the mailbox without the homeowner seeing them.
Informed Delivery requires you to answer security questions to sign up.
Somehow, someone had enough information to do it and enough to apply for credit cards in the homeowner's names. Then, thanks to Informed Delivery, that person watched the mail until they arrived.
"It is not hard these days to obtain people's information," Millis said. "You can go online and get just about anything that you want," he said.
Fotieo said she thinks the Informed Delivery service does more harm than good.
"What's scary is anybody who can answer certain security questions can get emails and find out what you're getting in your mailbox," Fotieo said. "It seems like it's more of a benefit to the criminals than it is to an actual postal customer."
Police are recommending you be proactive and sign up for Informed Delivery yourself before a criminal does it for you.
News 6 asked USPS if officials were planning any changes after these cases, but they only referred us to their Informed Delivery website.