Houston hacker re-directs mail, steals banking information from Round Rock couple

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ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — A hacker from Houston used the United States Postal Service as a tool to successfully infiltrate a Round Rock couple’s bank account and steal their personal information.

Vicki Tran said she was alerted to suspicious activity when she didn’t receive her mail for several days.

When she brought this to the attention of her local post office, she found out someone had officially re-directed the mail to Houston to buy time to apply for high fee credit and debit cards in her and her husband’s name.

Vicki Tran and Tom Pham sit in front of a mountain of documents. It’s three weeks worth of evidence they’ve built in their case of mail fraud and identity theft. (Courtesy: Alex Caprariello)

Tom Pham, Tran’s husband, said he’s had to reach out to his bank, credit agencies and other companies who have opened up accounts in his name to alert them to the fraud.

“I thought that I had been very careful with my identity, protecting my security and everything. But I don’t know how it got out like that,” Pham said.

Silvia Torres, the U.S. Postal Inspector in Houston, said there is an active investigation to locate and arrest the criminal. The Williamson County Sheriff’s office also has a pending case.

Tran said she and Pham have spent nearly three weeks working with their bank, the USPS in Round Rock and Houston and the sheriff’s office to collect evidence and monitor for further fraudulent activity.

A credit card was opened under Tom’s legal name, Thanh Pham. He has punctured the chip reader to ensure it will not be used without his permission. (Courtesy: Alex Caprariello)

“It is very stressful for us. We have all the evidence but all we can do is sit and watch for his next move,” Tran said. “Until the police catch him, there will be more victims at any second and that is my nightmare. I don’t really want any people to be victimized because I know how stressful and time-consuming this is.”

The Postal Inspector said there are internal controls in place, including a “move validation letter,” which confirms a change-of-address. Tran said she received it after one week, but the thief had already begun digging into their personal banking information.

“I can’t trust anyone anymore. No way,” Tran said. “Why did he pick me? Why did he pick us?”

The U.S. Postal Inspector wants to reassure the public: this deception is incredibly rare.

The US Mail remains one of the safest means of transmitting personal information. The issues with fraudulent changes of address are not wide scale. There were over 30 million changes of address filed last year and less than a fraction of one percent were reported as suspicious. However, the Inspection Service takes these reports seriously and investigates them accordingly.

Silvia Torres, U.S. Postal Inspector
Officials with the USPS said the easiest way to combat mail fraud is to check your mail regularly. If you notice issues, report them. (Courtesy: Alex Caprariello)

The Inspection Service encourages customers to monitor receipt of their mail by retrieving it on a daily basis and to report any issues to their local post office and the Inspection Service.

While the couple continues to sort through documents and work to retrieve their identities, they have a message for whoever is behind this.

“If you need help, you go get help. You don’t hurt other people like that. You don’t steal from other people like this. We didn’t do anything to you. So don’t do that,” Tran said.

Tonight on KXAN News at 10, Alex Caprariello will show you what you can do if this type of identity theft and mail fraud happens to you and your family.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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