Montreal police are advising residents to keep a close eye on their mailboxes.

SPVM spokesperson Manuel Couture says police have arrested three men in their 20s for stealing mail from various Montreal and Laval homes and then creating false identities with bank accounts and credit cards in the victims' names.

Police conducted three searches and seized fraudulent credit cards and personal documents directly linked to the crime. The men are charged with fraud over $5,000.

The investigation began in June 2018.

“They were targeting homes of wealthy people in Montreal,” Couture says. The thieves would steal personal information from victims' mailboxes, create the false accounts and then return to the same homes to collect the banking information and credit cards after they were mailed out. They would then deposit fraudulent cheques in the bank accounts and ring up massive debt on the newly acquired fraudulent credit and bank cards.

“It demands a lot of time... to make sure the people are not there (home) to steal everything. It is not an easy task,” Couture says.

“It’s possible that people are not even aware,” that they have been defrauded Couture says. He adds that there may be more victims.

Couture says that the summer holiday season is the perfect time for this kind of criminal activity to thrive. Many people away on vacation and that leaves many unattended mailboxes.

Couture says that locking the mailbox is the best way to prevent this crime. Other safety measures include retrieving mail as soon as possible and keeping your home address up to date for all credit cards and bank accounts. Couture recommends Montreal vacationers ask neighbours to gather their mail for them while they are away. He adds that all personal information should also be shredded before being discarded.

Couture says that this was a fairly sophisticated and detailed criminal operation.

“At this amount and this scale... it’s pretty rare,” Couture says.

“It’s one thing if they steal a $200 box, but it's another thing if they open up a credit card for $10,000 or $12,000. They can defraud you of a lot of money before you even know it.”