USPS Will Test Database to Track Mail Scams

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The U.S. Postal Inspection Service plans to begin testing an online database next month in its Philadelphia office used to investigate identity theft and financial crimes before launching it at Inspection Service offices nationwide sometime next year.

The database will include data from inspectors, the banking industry and the Federal Trade Commission's consumer sentinel database, which provides law enforcement agencies access to Internet, telemarketing and other consumer fraud complaints.

Called the Financial Crimes Database, it will differ from the Inspection Service's current online fraud system because "our system now is a dumping site for all types of crimes being committed," said Debra White, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia office. "We aren't able to really track identity theft crimes. But, since we will be getting information from financial institutions like credit card companies and banks, we will be able to identify a certain area [in Philadelphia or parts of Delaware] that is being hit by identity theft."

Inspectors will log information into the system about people and businesses who have been fraud victims, including their birth dates, credit card numbers, addresses and Social Security numbers. They also will incorporate data from fraud claims, such as phone numbers listed on phony credit applications.

The Inspection Service said that having this data online alongside information from banks and the FTC will allow it to more fully investigate large-scale cases. For example, the database might let investigators quickly see that merchandise purchased from six retailers with a dozen stolen credit cards was shipped to the same address.

White said the Philadelphia region of the Inspection Service may have been chosen as the pilot site because "we work very closely with the banking industries and financial institutions in Wilmington, Delaware."

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