Had she known of the headaches that were soon to follow, Cindy Kruse would likely not have put a document intended for the IRS in her mailbox last week.

In fact, she usually doesn't put outgoing mail in the mailbox in front of her home on Tiffany Drive, but this time she decided to do just that.

"Then the next morning, I noticed my mailbox was open and the flag was still up," Kruse said.

When she went outside to investigate, she found that her mail had been stolen. The document intended for the IRS had her social security number and other information on it.

According to Police Chief Mike McMenomy, crooks steal mail in order to get things like personal information, credit card information and checks.

With personal information, they can apply for new credit cards under a victim's name. If they get credit card numbers, they can charge things to the cards online. And if they're able to get their hands on an actual check, they can attempt to make withdrawals from that account.

Immediately after discovering what had happened, Kruse and her husband, Randy, called their banks and credit card company and put flags on their accounts. They also alerted the Federal Trade Commission, which can make sure no new credit cards are issued in their names.

The couple also goes online and checks their various accounts daily to make sure there's no strange activity. And they've alerted the Hastings Post Office to keep mail carriers on alert.

The Kruses later found out that they weren't the only ones on their block who were victims of mail theft. One neighbor was hit with a fraudulent charge of $10,000 on a credit card after having mail stolen.

McMenomy said mail thefts happen periodically, but that he's not aware of a large rash of them occurring in Hastings lately. He called it a "crime of opportunity" and said that sometimes mail thieves can be caught by the paper trail their fraudulent actions leave behind.

In the Kruses' case, they've switched to having all their statements and bills come to them online via e-mail.

Stealing mail can be a federal offense. Anyone with information about these crimes should call the Hastings Police Department at 480-2300.