You open the package expecting, well you don't know what, but probably not 500 cockroaches.
That, however, is what happened to a mail thief.
Crooks will steal just about anything. And criminals who focus on U.S. Post Office boxes tend to increase their activity around this time every year.
The reason? Tax refunds.
Tax-related mail theft: Every February, people are either getting refund checks from the U.S. Treasury or they're receiving tax documents they can use to file their annual federal and state returns.
Either option is a crook's dream.
The checks can be cashed. The tax statements' info can be used to file a fake tax return in an effort to claim a fraudulent refund.
But all the criminal who broke into Rosalinda Vizina's mailbox got was a creepy, crawly surprise.
Unexpectedly buggy mail: The Marina, California, entomologist is studying cockroaches and ordered 500 live ones for her latest research project.
You can watch Vizina's story, and more on mail thefts, by clicking on the screenshot above of TV station KSBW's report, which gets this weekend's Saturday Shout Out.
"I feel bad for the roaches if they got smushed or tossed or something like that. For the thieves, I hope they went everywhere," Vizina said.
Mail tax safety tips: While it's fun to think about the roach thief being freaked out by the package's buggy contents, it's no fun for Vizina or others who get their mail stolen.
And it's particularly vexing when the mail theft affects a tax refund.
That's one of the reasons the IRS recommends e-filing and direct deposit of any tax refund. This method also usually means you'll get your refund sooner.
As for the tax documents, many companies nowadays send their employees' W-2 forms electronically. If that's an option where you work, consider that route next filing season.
The same is true for other tax statements, such as 1099 forms from bank and investment accounts or your mortgage lender's Form 1098 with your tax deductible loan interest and property taxes paid.
I've gotten our tax data online for years now.
Yes, it's a bit more of hassle than just pulling the printed statement out of the mailbox. But I tend to wait until I've been notified by all issuers that the documents are available online and then spend a couple of hours logging on to the accounts and downloading the docs.
In many cases, if you use tax software you can let that program access the info and enter it directly into your electronic return.
I know hackers are out there and they find ways to steal electronic data, too. But I also like knowing that no one can easily lift anything with personal info from my curbside mailbox.
That's one less thing I have to worry about this taxing time of year.
It is, however, still a concern for Vizina.
"I've been checking my mail quite frequently with all the tax forms coming out, all that private information. I really don't want that to get taken in the meantime,” she told KSBW.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also has more on how to prevent mail theft or what to do if crooks do get your letters, tax data, refund check or roaches.
You also might find these tax items of interest:
- 6 tax refund myths busted
- The pros and cons of tax refunds
- Where's your refund? Still in the works for ACTC, EITC filers