BOZEMAN, Mont. - Mowed-down cluster boxes and rifled-through mail are raising concerns of identity theft in Bozeman. Investigators with the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office are urging residents in the area to be alert.
On February 11, they responded to a report of seven destroyed mailboxes, holding mail for more than 100 homes. It happened near Sage Bloom Court and Durston Road. The area where the seven mailboxes once stood is now just a concrete slab with studs.
A major concern is mail with sensitive personal information -- things like tax returns, bank statements or personal checks could have been tampered with. At this point officials say nothing has been reported missing or stolen.
Paul Lewis with the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office sat down with us Tuesday afternoon. He tells us it is important to pay close attention to bank accounts, and think about any mail you may be missing.
"Staying vigilant, keeping track of charges on your bank account, even if they are minor charges, even if you don't recognize them, look into them and see what is going on. Often times these guys will do a small charge to see if it works and doesn't get canceled, and if it works they may try a bigger charge," said Lewis.
Right now the estimated cost of damage to the mailboxes is around $9,000. The damage total does not include the potential of any reported or stolen mail.
We spoke to nearby resident Carol Conover who is worried.
"I feel very vulnerable because we get our mail there and we get our statements," said Conover.
When Conover heard the news, her first instinct was to make sure her finances were in order.
"Called the banks, told them what happened and now we have a watch on our account," said Conover.
Down the street from Conover we found Sarah Kusek checking her mail. She is a college student at MSU who just heard about the damaged mailboxes on Tuesday morning.
"I was really surprised because I had no idea, I heard it happened a week ago and I had no idea," said Kusek.
When we asked her what she got in the mail Tuesday she told us she believed they were checks. She also says that is a rare occurrence and usually does not get personal mail sent to that address. She says the news of the mailbox damage will have her keeping a closer eye on what grandma may be sending.
"I guess I get birthday cards and what not, but I didn't really think about that, maybe just check the mail more often I guess, and if I know things are coming I'll watch for it," said Kusek.
That reminder is echoed by the concrete slabs where more than 100 people used to get their mail. For now, residents who were affected have to pick their mail up at the post office off Baxter Lane.
As for the person or persons responsible, the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office says this incident could lead to theft and forgery charges. There could also be felony charges depending on how much was taken.