A MAN caught an identity thief redhanded as he tried to steal or “dip” post from his letterbox.

Police suspect fraudsters are ordering credit cards in Castle Point residents’ names after two people off Papenburg Road, on Canvey, reported receiving cards they hadn’t ordered in the last two weeks.

A third victim, who also lives in Papenburg Road, found a man dipping his hand into his mail box and called the police.

The would-be thief ran off before police arrived and officers are now urging residents to be vigilant Castle Point Sgt Mark McQuade said: “This scam has the potential to have a shocking and devastating conclusion.

“Can you imagine if you were hard up and then you get a bill for thousands of pounds and bailiffs knocking at your door demanding money or your house?

“It would be a few months of wrangling with the banks to sort it, too, as you would have to prove you hadn’t taken out the card.

“The worrying thing for residents is they are going to be targeted by unknown criminals and subjected to these people coming to their front doors, potentially confronted by them. It’s also worrying that these scammers have somehow got residents’ dates of birth and addresses.”

Worried residents also called police after they spotted men in white vans parked in roads in the early hours, waiting for the postman to arrive.

It is not known if others have fallen victim to the thieves as credit card bills won’t be delivered until months later.

Sgt McQuade added: “You can bet your bottom dollar that it’s going on all the time.

“People need to make sure their post boxes are secure and are not big enough to get their hands in.”

Police are advising people to avoid using outside post boxes, as they can easily be forced open.

Anyone who spots suspicious activity should call police immediately.