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home : news : news Wednesday, November 22, 2017

7/15/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
Raymond and Kate Cavanagh did not really move from their Delmar home, despite a scammer who filed a change of address for them with the U.S. Postal Service. After receiving no mail for three days, the Delmar couple learned they had been scammed. Shown in front of the post office boxes in Delmar are, in front, Keegan, Hadley and Kate Cavanagh. In back are Carley, Tenley and Raymond Cavanagh. Photo by Kelly Gerlach
Couple halt mail scam at Delmar
Scammer changed address of family, ordered bank cards

By Kelly Gerlach
Staff writer

DELMAR - The Cavanagh family had a new address in Mount Clemens, Michigan.

But nobody told them.

After three days with no mail in their Delmar post office box, Raymond and Kate Cavanagh became concerned. No newspaper, not even a bill.

Nothing.

That was strange, they thought.

The couple quickly discovered that someone had filed a temporary change of address in their name - then ordered new debit cards for their bank accounts.

The Cavanaghs are now urging public vigilance.

"Pay attention to your mail," Kate Cavanagh advised.

The problem started June 28 when the couple found no mail in their post office box. After two more days with nothing, she went to the post office July 1.

Cavanagh learned that someone had filed a change of address from June 28 to September in her family's name. That means all of their mail was being forwarded elsewhere - a vacant house for sale in Michigan.

The Cavanaghs had not left their Delmar home.

Strange as it sounds, theirs was not the only mail fraud of its kind, according to Maquoketa Postmaster Bob Winegar, who also oversees the Delmar office.

"Theirs was the second one that week," Winegar said.

A local man called the Maquoketa Post Office with a tracking number for a package he expected but had not received. Post office records showed it had been delivered - to an address in Kentucky. A scammer had changed his address, also.

In that man's case, Winegar called the Kentucky post office, which retrieved the package and returned it to its rightful owner.

Before the internet, people went to the post office to fill out a little yellow change-of-address card and file it with the U.S. Postal Service. The service is free.

Now, however, people can log on to the usps.gov website, file the same change of address, and pay $1.

Cavanagh said her husband found $1 charges on both of their bank accounts.

The scam worsened.

Bank fraud near miss

When the clerk handed her Saturday's mail, Cavanagh found a new bank-issued debit card to her checking account along with new PINs (personal identification numbers) for both her bank account and her husband's.

"I knew the expiration date on my cards, and we never asked for new ones," she explained.

The couple immediately called US Bank to cancel all the cards. They needed new temporary debit cards because they were driving to Colorado a few days later.

They then reported the scam to the Clinton County Sheriff's Office.

"The deputy said he'd never seen that before," Cavanagh said.

Deputies have no leads in the case.

What's to gain?

Why did the scammer want to forward the Cavanaghs' mail? Money was likely a factor, Clinton County Senior vs. Crime director Randy Meier wrote in a newsletter this week.

"Most likely, the crooks planned to open fraudulent credit card accounts with the compromised information, and get the new cards and statements sent somewhere where the victims would never see them," he explained. "It didn't work this time, because the Delmar couple paid attention to their lack of mail and their bank account."

Meier offered these tips:

"Pay attention to your credit card statement or bank statement. Look at all the charges. Challenge any that you did not make.

"Look at your mail. Don't overlook mail from the postal service. That confirmation letter might be your only clue something crooked is about to happen to you."

The Cavanaghs have password-protected all their accounts now. They put a fraud alert on the bank accounts and mail then reported the scam to everyone connected with their credit score.

They posted their experience on Facebook, and as a result, the postmaster said he received many phone calls from people inquiring about their mail.

"We will stop the forward, notify the other end of the fraud, and hold all their mail until the problem is solved," Winegar said. "If you don't get mail for three, four days and it's unusual, call or stop by the post office."

Their three days of mail is likely gone forever, including money from a fundraiser they were expecting. Cavanagh credits that missing money for making her go to the post office.

"Someone was looking out for us," she said. "We are so grateful we didn't wait one more day."


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