The U.S. Postal Service estimates it will deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail this Christmas season. Of course, you don’t want that coveted Vitamix you ordered on Cyber Monday to end up under a mail thieves’ tree, but that’s really the most benign thing that can happen as a result of mail theft.
In this blog post, I will share a few simple things you can do to prevent thieves from stealing your mail.
As I was saying, losing out on a blender is the least of your worries when it comes to mail theft. Mail theft is a very common way that people have their identities stolen, according to LibertyID Restoration Specialist Suzanne Ford (Read more instances of mail theft leading to identity theft here). According to this CBS story, 400,000 people had their identities stolen as a result of mail theft last year.
How does it happen? Think about it — your mail provides access to credit card bills that likely contain your full credit card number, checks with your bank account numbers, tax forms, medical insurance statements, and more. In light of this, here are a few tips:
- Buy a lockable mailbox or use a Post Office box to receive your mail: “Anyone with an unsecured mailbox might as well leave their purse on the curb,” says Ford. She’s helped enough clients who had mail theft play a part in their identity theft case that she recommends clients purchase a lockable mailbox, available for around $80 at some of the big box stores. And don’t worry, you don’t have to give your mail carrier a key (which is actually against U.S. Postal Service regulations). Your mail carrier simply slides your mail into a slot. You’ll need to drop your outgoing mail at the post office or place it into your mail carrier’s hands.
- Go paperless when possible: In addition to using a lockable mailbox, if your bank, credit card company, utility company etc. offer to provide electronic copies of your statements or bills rather than mailing them to you, do yourself a favor and take them up on the offer. This, in turn, leads us to No. 3:
- Don’t write checks: Set up an automatic payment instead. “All someone needs to do is take a picture of your check and they can use the numbers to make payments by phone,” she said. “Or (criminals) can steal a check from your mailbox, wash it, and use it. I have people say ‘well, I’ve always written checks for my bills.’ That might be, but it’s time to think about how to make things more efficient and secure.”
- Don’t raise the flag: If you are sending out a check or important piece of mail, don’t put the red flag on your mailbox up. That red flag serves as a “come and get it” to mail thieves.
- Put your mail on hold if traveling: Don’t forget — if you’re traveling this holiday season, put your mail on hold or arrange for a trusted family member or friend to collect it for you daily while you’re away. Likewise, if you’re going to be away at work all day when you’re expecting UPS or FedEx to deliver a package, consider asking a trustworthy neighbor to take it to their house until you return home.
- Sign up for the virtual neighborhood watch site NextDoor: This site gives people a way to alert their neighbors when suspected mail theft is taking place in their neighborhoods and reminds you to be watchful. Additionally, it’s a communication channel the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has been known to use. In Denver, Postal Inspector Eric Manuel has posted on NextDoor several times in the last year warning people about reports of mail theft activity and in what part of the city (sometimes as specific as a certain apartment complex) mail theft activity is occurring. “If you placed outgoing mail in the slots in these boxes, or were expecting checks, credit cards, or other financial information in the mail, Postal Inspectors recommend you contact the sender or intended recipient and advise them of possible theft,” Manuel writes in one such post. If you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood involving your mail or USPS employees or vehicles, please call the 24/7 hotline for USPIS at 877-876-2455 (press option “4” to report suspected mail theft). To file a mail theft complaint online, visit this site.
If you have had your mail stolen or are concerned about identity theft, sign up for an annual LibertyID membership. LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*Extended families – primary individual, their spouse/partner, both sets of parents (including those that have been deceased for up to a year), and all children under the age of 25