WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. - In the electronic, digital, and internet age, it sounds like an archaic way to steal someone's identity, but as Greg Martz can tell you, it still happens.

"It will mess with your life," says Martz, owner of AM/PM Auto Repair in White Bear Lake. "This is the most frustrating thing I've had to deal with in my career."

Earlier this month, Martz did what he's done for years and dropped his company's bills into a big blue mailbox at the nearby Vadnais Heights post office. But this latest time will change his routine forever.

"I noticed it was more full than normal," he recalls. "But I trusted that it would be picked up and nobody would mess with it."

Unfortunately for Martz, somebody was watching and waiting for the perfect time to swing by the mailbox and swipe cards, letter, or bills with personal information. Martz says he's out thousands of dollars after someone stole more than a dozen checks and started using his banking numbers.

"Somehow, somebody got back in there and pulled out envelopes," he says. "Now, it's a huge headache."

Investigators with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department say they dealt with 26 mail theft cases last year and have seen 10 cases this year. They say stolen materials from personal mailboxes are more common, but that doesn't mean people don't try to hit up the big, blue boxes.

"If it looks full, don't put anything in there," said Deputy John Eastham, a crime prevention specialist. "Never put your red flag up on your mailbox and always know when your bills are mailed to you."

Authorities are aware of the case in Vadnais Heights, but are not sharing any details. Meanwhile, Deputy Eastham says just because the crime sounds old fashioned doesn't mean it's not happening.

"Old school tactics have been around for so long because they work. Technology is great, but nothing beats old school tactics," he says. "If you see anything suspicious give us a call."

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