Last fall, Cindy Sullivan received an envelope at her northeast Minneapolis home that wasn't meant for her.
When she opened the letter from U.S. Bank, she found a credit card with the name of someone else on it -- the woman who lived in her home more than eight years ago.
Sullivan returned the card to the bank. On the envelope, she wrote: "No longer at this address!" Surprisingly, the bank once again mailed the card back to her.
"That's how you end up with fraud," Sullivan said. "If I was a dishonest person, I would take that credit card and go shopping."
A spokesman for U.S. Bank was unable to explain why the bank returned the card, but he said such mistakes rarely happen.
"The card Cindy received in the mail was originated as a result of false or inaccurate information provided on a credit application," U.S. Bank spokesman Tom Joyce said in an e-mail. "We have communicated this to Cindy and are in the process of investigating the matter further."
It's not that unusual for credit cards to wind up at the wrong address, which is one reason why there are so many crimes linked to identify theft, according to Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, based in Washington, D.C.
About 8.1 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2010, with total losses estimated at $37 billion, according to a report from Javelin Strategy & Research, a financial services firm that has been tracking identity fraud for eight years.
"I think the credit card companies are incredibly aggressive on how they market their cards," Greenberg said, adding that whether a credit card goes to the right person is not of the highest concern to companies.
What's unusual about this situation is that U.S. Bank resent the card to Sullivan after she told the bank she was the wrong recipient, said John McCullough, chairman of Financial Crimes Services, a Red Wing company that works with law enforcement and businesses to provide training on fraud techniques.
"That would have been a red flag," McCullough said.
To catch these kinds of problems, which can lead to fraud, consumers should check their credit reports annually for discrepancies, said Jeff Long, a U.S. postal inspector in Minneapolis. "It's critical that you look at that credit report," he said.
Sullivan, who moved into her Minneapolis home eight years ago, said this wasn't the first time she received mail meant for the prior occupant. But she was surprised when she got the Minnesota Twins Rewards MasterCard in the mail last year.
"Typically I don't look at who's on the front ... I just ripped it open and was like 'This isn't mine. This isn't my name,' " Sullivan said.
U.S. Bank apparently believed it wasn't a mistake the first time around.
"Recently, your credit card(s) was returned by the United States Post Office indicating we have an undeliverable address on record for your account," the bank said in a letter accompanying the card the second time Sullivan received it. "Additional research indicates you receive your mail at the above address. Because we were able to verify you at the above mailing address, we are resending your credit card(s) to you."
Sullivan said she called the bank several times to explain the mistake, but she said bank representatives were not especially helpful. She said she has also been receiving bank statements in the former occupant's name.
To avoid situations like this, the bank's spokesman said that people should immediately update their address when moving. Joyce said people should also notify the bank if they happen to get someone else's credit card or bank statements.
Sullivan, 41, tried to contact the woman who was supposed to receive the credit card through Facebook, but she has yet to get a response. Whistleblower also tried to reach the woman, but she did not respond to an electronic message and her phone service had been disconnected.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495