Frommer's Personal Information Trafficking & Mail Theft Prevention Act of 2006 would increase the penalty for some forms of mail theft from a misdemeanor to a grand-theft felony and increase protections for identity-theft victims, including moving the county of prosecution to the victim's from the county the crime was committed in.
The legislation is waiting for a Public Safety Committee hearing in April. If passed, California the third state to have such a law on the books, Frommer said.
"This is an issue that's really shouting to come out," said Frommer, who hopes the bill will be passed by August.
"This tells these criminals who rummage through mailboxes and trash cans that the jig is up."
Victims not only suffer the loss of money, but struggle to restore their services and repair credit scores, said Mayor Rafi Manoukian.
"People feel like their privacy is violated and they feel unsafe," he said. "It is an increasing problem in this day and age."
Some victims spend as many as 330 hours trying to clear their good names, said Frommer, who discovered he had been victimized when his credit card company called and asked him if his wife had taken a trip to Spain.
Stealing mail is a federal offense, but United States Postal Inspection Service officers are so busy investigating bigger crimes they often don't have time to react to single incidences of mail theft, Adams said. And though mail theft is prosecutable, the amount of the theft must be more than $400 to be a felony in California, he said.
The new law would base the crime on the intrinsic value of the information contained in the mail, said Glendale Police Detective Chris Spencer, who heads the department's financial crimes unit.
"This law recognizes that mail has value because of the information contained in it," Spencer said.
There are steps people can take to prevent being victimized like shredding documents that contain personal information, mailing bills at a post office instead of leaving them in the curbside mailbox, protecting Social Security card numbers and dates of birth, Spencer said.
Mail theft used to be a key source of credit and identity theft but with the advent of the Internet, electronic crimes became more prevalent, Frommer said.
But as Internet protections became more sophisticated identity thieves turned back to trash cans, he said.
Trafficking of identity information has become an industry as well and the proposed legislation would make that illegal too, Frommer said.