Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the News4 I-Team's Chief Investigative Reporter. He has won multiple Midsouth Emmy and Edward R. Murrow Awards.

Jesse Cartwright knew something was wrong when his mother sent a gift card and it never arrived.

When he went to the post office in Madison, and saw a form that someone had posed as himself to start and stop his mail, he knew he was in trouble.

Within 24 hours, he realized his identity had been stolen.

“I don't think people realize that it can be done,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright became the latest victim across the nation to have his identity stolen by criminals figuring out how to use the mail “stop and start” system.

The stealing of Cartwright’s entity began when someone used his name and address to stop his mail.

The News4 I-Team found the online system to stop and start the mail does not require proof of identification.

The criminals then applied for credit cards in Cartwright’s name and had set the start date.

Knowing the credit cards would arrive before the start date, the criminal picked up the mail.

Cartwright provided the false hold mail application he received at the Madison Post office, and it shows the criminal used his name and address, and typed at the bottom, “If I’m not able to get mail my sister Jayla Steptoe will pick it up.”

Cartwright pointed out he doesn’t have a sister by that name.

As soon as he realized what happened, he ran a credit report and found the criminals had already charged $3,000 on cards in his name.

He filed a complaint with the post office to launch an investigation and paid for a credit monitoring service to protect his credit.

But he blames the post office for not having more safeguards in place to keep other thieves from targeting more people.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service said thieves are supposed to be prevented from doing this because an ID is required when someone picks up mail from the post office.

It is unclear why that didn’t happen in Cartwright’s case.

“It's definitely a loophole. Obviously those who have carried out identity theft have figured that out,” Cartwright said.

While the News4 I-Team found media reports of it happening across the country, the actual numbers of how often it occurs was not available by the post office.

The News4 I-Team filed Freedom of Information Act request for that data and will report it when it is released.

The best advice is to stop this from happening to you, is to monitor that your mail arrives daily. If there is an unexpected stop for a day or two, be sure to inquire with the post office.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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