By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s a unique twist on identity theft and a warning for consumers today.

Prosecutors charged a woman for opening up credit cards in other peoples’ names and racking up more than $18,000 in charges at Menards stores.

What’s new is that the woman was able to put a hold on the victims’ mail so they would not be notified of the new credit card in their names.

According to a criminal complaint, Detroit resident Jasmine Williams was arrested last week at a South St. Paul Menards after using a bogus Menards credit card to purchase items.

WCCO’s Esme Murphy went to Computer Forensic Services in Minnetonka to talk to Mike Olson, who for 20 years, investigated identity theft for the U.S. Secret Service.

“We are all very vulnerable,” Olson said. “What everyone should realize and expect is that you have been breached, your information is out there — it just hasn’t been used yet.”

Olson says in scams like this one, the goal is often to buy goods that can be resold.

“It could be power tools; it could be something they can turn around and sell on a black market, if you will, or fence for a profit,” Olson said.

Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom is prosecuting the case and he says putting someone’s mail on hold to keep them from receiving a credit card is a unique twist.

“That is something, until this came along, I had never heard of,” Backstrom said. “Apparently if you have someone’s name and address, you can put a hold on anyone’s mail. That is kind of shocking.”

Olson says his advice for consumers is to take advantage of a new federal law, which allows you to freeze your credit for free. Freezing your credit will prevent anyone else from opening a credit card in your name.

The United States Postal Service was asked to comment, but WCCO did not hear back.

A representative from Menards said they were unable to comment on legal matters.

Jasmine Williams’ next court date is Nov. 1 in Dakota County.

For tips on how to freeze your credit, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Esme Murphy