Emily McKee is watching her life savings disappear one forged check after another.
"They've taken $10,000 that I'm not going to be able to get back. It was my whole life savings. I don't have a penny to my name right now," explained McKee.
Emily is the victim of a team of thieves targeting the Puget Sound area. They're stealing purses from cars and using the checks and identification to drain victim’s bank accounts.
"These guys are real good at it. Unfortunately it's on the rise," explained Detective Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
Det. Troyer said they are on the trail of the suspects but all they have are bank photos.
"We have reward posters out there trying to find the people doing this. We've got photos of a lot of them. It's just a matter of getting their names and putting them in jail" said Det. Troyer.
McKee is a nanny who lost her purse dropping off two kids at a remote Kitsap County school. She called her bank immediately but still the thieves drove around the region, using McKee's ID to cash stolen checks in her name. The checks were written for just a $1,000 to avoid suspicion. When the bad checks were returned, the bank began recouping its funds from her accounts.
"About 48 hours later, I was checking my bank account and I noticed $5,000 was missing through overdraft fees, transfer deposits, charge back fees, and return of deposits," explained McKee.
Suzanne Winn's name was listed on the cashed checks so I tracked her down in Lake Stevens.
"My purse was stolen at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle," explained Winn.
The bad guys tried to hit Suzanne's wallet but the bank froze her accounts so the crooks got nothing.
"It's one thing to go to a gas station and then take off. It's another thing when they walk into a bank, use your ID to impersonate you and to cash another person's check," said Winn.
And that takes us to Emily. The thieves used Suzanne's checks, made them out to Emily and cashed them in Gig Harbor. It's a coordinated effort; two crimes, 50 miles apart. Actually, we can make that three. Kristin West said the thieves tried to cash checks in her name too.
"I went to the same elementary school and my purse was stolen from my car," said Kristin West. "So the good news for me was I knew the nature of the crime. I knew what happened to Emily."
West's account wasn't hit because the bank asked the thieves to confirm her social security number.
"The thief panicked and drove off," said West.
McKee's bank, US Bank, initially said it wouldn't cover her losses. I called headquarters who then assured me it would cover the money. Again, the suspects are still wanted for these cases. Bottom line - don’t ever leave your purse or other private information in your car or you could lose everything.