Mail theft causes San Jose woman to lose $500

SAN JOSE, Calif.

In the world of crime, mail theft doesn't usually strike fear in most people, but when it happens to you, it's a whole different feeling.

Postal inspector Jeff Fitch comforted Wendi Zubillaga of San Jose. Someone had opened her mailbox, stole a $500 check made out to her and then endorsed it to someone else. Her bank assumed it was her that endorsed the check.

"First of all the signature on the back was not mine and it was my forged signature, paid to the order of a gentleman," said Zubillaga.

The check was a refund from Bank of America for an overpayment to her credit card. Bank of America told her she would need to file a fraud report to recoup the money.

"It's really scary. I went down immediately and got a P.O. box. So now my mail goes to a P.O. box, There's nothing in the mail box," said Zubillaga.

Mail theft is a federal offense. It's punishable by up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The reward for the arrest of a mail thief is $10,000. Once thieves get hold of a check, they can move quickly.

"It doesn't take all that much, just some basic chemicals. They change the amounts, they change who it's going to, the same thing for counterfeiting. Just a few pieces of technology and you're able to do some counterfeiting," said Fitch.

Zubillaga says it took Bank of America four months after she filed a fraud report to tell her there was nothing it could do.

"I wasn't going to take that for an answer," said Zubillaga. "I had been working, calling them at least three to four times a week and was getting nowhere. That's when I called Michael Finney."

Bank of America had no comment for this story, but I called the bank and it promptly sent out a new refund check to Zubillaga.

"I'd have to say that Michael Finney was awesome helping me get this resolved, and very fast. So a big appreciation to ABC," said Zubillaga.

The forged check was deposited into a Wells Fargo account. Wells says it routinely verifies signatures and advises its customers to put alerts on their accounts so they can be notified when their balance is low or a check has cleared.

To report mail theft, you can call: 1-877-876-2455

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