Rip-Off Alert: Thieves strike mailboxes in search of vital tax documents

Tax season is a busy time for thieves, searching for tax documents in mailboxes (KSNV file)

Crime hits year round and postal inspectors say this is a busy season for thieves, searching for tax documents that may be sitting in a mailbox.

They believe that's what happened to a single mother of two.

"My kids' socials are gone," said mailbox theft victim Shellee Stroud. "When someone breaks in, then what are you supposed to do?"

Stroud was the target of thieves ... not once, but twice.

"Everything is gone. I just feel so discouraged the second time," said Stroud.

Crooks recently broke into her car and before that, they hit her mailboxes at her apartment complex.

"One of the whole sections was just on the ground, but all these mailboxes were open," said Stroud.

Inside, her new debit card, her children's social security cards, and possibly her W-2 tax form.

"They said they sent it out two Fridays ago, but I haven't gotten it yet. I'm waiting to see what happens next," said Stroud.

The U.S. Postal Service says it is currently seeing a high number of reports of mailbox thefts in the San Antonio area and they believe the crooks could be after W-2s.

"If it hasn't shown up and your coworkers are receiving theirs, it's kind of a red flag that yours may have been stolen," said Bill Cotter, a special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations.

The Internal Revenue Service says criminals will try to fraudulently file taxes in your name.

If this happens, sometimes the IRS will catch it.

"It's very important for taxpayers if they get that notice to contact the IRS very quickly," said Cotter.

But often times, you won't notice the fraud until you try to file your taxes.

So here's what you can do -- treat your personal information like cash. Don't leave it around even if it's in a car or even at home.

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