'Mystery' Baffles Town; Criminals May Be Stealing Account Info From Mailboxes

TEANECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Thieves are very busy preying on residents of Teaneck.

The problem is being called an epidemic of identity theft and credit card fraud with more than 200 victims and counting.

The small police force in the town has been swamped with complaints over the past couple days.

“This has really been like an outbreak here in Teaneck,” Councilmember Elie Katz told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin on Friday.

Rachel Schechter was shopping in Paramus on Tuesday while thieves were doing the same thing in Florida — with her stolen credit card number. The fraud triggered an immediate red flag for Chase Bank and Schechter got a call.

“There was my charges plus their charges,” Schechter told Carlin.

A similar incident has also happened to Councilmember Katz. The number for his Citibank credit card was stolen and used for hotels in the Midwest.

“They need to find a common denominator between the different charges,” he said. “My mother had the same issue and some of her friends.”

As a result, Katz sent out a mass e-mail, warning Teaneck residents to check their accounts.

“You don’t want to use your credit cards anymore because you don’t know who’s getting the numbers,” one resident said.

Some of the victims, acting as amateur detectives, thought they had it narrowed down to stores on one block of Teaneck, but they came to find out other victims who reported issues had never shopped in the area.

“It’s a real mystery,” resident Lindsey Mejia said.

Criminals may be stealing account information out of people’s mailboxes and victims are being urged to first call their credit card companies and then police.

Authorities want people to pass along all the information to help cops connect the dots, close this case and charge the criminals.

Identity theft experts also said everyone should protect themselves by reviewing statements carefully, verifying mailing addresses with the post office and financial institutions and monitoring credit reports.

Have you ever been a victim of ID theft or credit card fraud? Share your thoughts in the comments section…