MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- How scary is this: A house painter turned identity thief uses her day job to learn her victim's schedule. That basic knowledge is more valuable than you may think -- but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
"I got home one day and I've got a package on my front porch from eBay -- which I did not order," Jill Carlson told FOX6's Contact 6.
Carlson thought it was a mix up -- but the next day, when she found a notice telling her to pick up another package, she got suspicious and spoke with the post office's clerk.
"Is there a way to stop packages from coming to my house? There is something going on," Carlson said.
As it turns out, thieves stole Carlson's identity, opened an eBay account in her name and began ordering online with the intent of picking up the packages before she had a chance to retrieve them.
"Just by chance, they missed two," Carlson said.
Carlson discovered the woman who stole her identity -- Stacy Wallin, was part of a house painting crew she hired years earlier.
Wallin and her crew knew Carlson's work schedule -- which was why they were able to grab packages from her home without anyone noticing.
"It became more personal at that point. The anger level was intense," Carlson said.
Though Carlson didn't lose any money, the damage done to her credit was devastating.
"I did have major problems with my credit report -- because all of a sudden you are late with a payment. They stole credit card statements out of my mailbox. They stole credit reports out of my mailbox. It took me probably a year to start rebuilding my credit," Carlson said.
The process isn't easy.
"It's amazing how hard it is for you to prove you are the actual person. It's easier for them to change your records then it is for you to go back and prove that you are who you are," Carlson said.
"Prosecutors, both federal, state and local and the judicial officers have realized that ID theft is not a victimless crime and it impacts the very fabric of the American economy," U.S. Postal Inspector E. Woodson said.
Postal inspectors say ID theft is growing at an alarming rate, and can happen to anyone.
"Many of these victims cannot afford this and one act of ID theft can impact their lives. They can't pay for a child's education. They can't get credit," Woodson said.
FOX6's Contact 6 advises ordering an annual credit report checking to see whether all of the accounts and addresses are yours, and that no one else's name is on your account.
Wallin was sentenced to more than three years in prison, and she was ordered to pay more than $35,000 in restitution.