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Mail thief targets woman in Astoria

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Susan Simons, 56, said she was distraught when she received a change-of-address confirmation note on Dec. 26 from her local post office. The Astoria resident had lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years and had no intention of moving."I went ballistic," she said. "It's very frightening and now I'll never feel safe."Simons said the Postal Service diverted her mail to an address in the Bronx after a scam artist had filled out a form on Dec. 6. During the past two months, she has not received credit card bills, bank statements, checks or W2 forms due to the scam.The thief cashed a $3,500 check that had been diverted to the Bronx address, as well several hundred dollars from Simons' checking account. Simons said the scam artist unsuccessfully attempted to cash a second $3,500 check, as well as apply for credit cards in her name."I've had to close accounts, cancel all my credit cards, put out fraud alerts and it's still not ending," she said. "At any time, [the thief] can attempt to open new credit cards or take out mortgages."But the Postal Inspection Service told her that post offices require customers to show identification when picking up packages that could not be delivered, but does not require IDs when dropping off change-of-address forms, Simons said. She said the agency told her that it could not prevent people from filling out forms in other's names.Simons, who is now again receiving her mail, contacted the office of Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who asked postal officials to require that IDs be required when changing addresses."This is much more serious than a one-time incident," he said. "The ramifications are horrendous, especially at a time when so many people are expecting tax rebate checks. The post office should confirm whether a homeowner wants to have an address change. But they don't contact them until after they forward their mail, which defies common sense."Simons said inspectors told her that the thief had a similar last name. "The US Postal Service is aiding and abetting criminals by allowing this to happen," she said. "We're always told ways to protect ourselves from ID theft, but they are not doing anything to protect us.Al Weissmann, a postal investigator, said customers are not required to display IDs when they drop off change-of-address forms for purposes of conveniency. But he said letters are sent out to the prior and new address following a change-of-address request. He said instances of fraud in the requests are very rare.He said the Postal Service was actively investigating the incident but no arrests have been made.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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