More than 10 million people fall victim to identity theft each year. That theft often occurs during the month of January. While media attention is often focused on cybercrime, many identity thieves are still going after your personal information using one of the oldest tricks in the book – stealing your mail.
Why is January so dangerous? Because it’s when employers, banks and credit card companies send out end of the year documents, including W-2s, 1099 frames, credit card summaries and brokerage statements. On any given day, there are more than 1 million credit cards in the mail stream, a significant portion of the 700 million pieces of mail delivered daily.
Some identity thieves take advantage of the dark of night to steal your mail, while others look for those individuals who don’t pick up their mail every day. Some even go so far as to open the envelopes, copy what they find, then reseal and replace the mail. Thieves will also follow mail carriers and look through your mail once it has been delivered. They know the optimum time to do so us between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
What can you do? The easiest fix is to get a post office box or a locking mailbox for your home. Don’t assume that because you pick up your mail at the end of each day that it’s okay. Postal deliveries are not always at the same time, and if you’re not standing right there when your mail arrives, a thief has all the opportunity he needs.
Keep a monthly calendar of when items arrive, and if they are delayed, call the sender to find out why. If you suspect mail theft, call the Postal Inspector’s Office immediately; don’t call your local post office.
During the critical month of January, you may want to have your mail held at the post office, with photo identification required for pickup, similar to a vacation hold.
Be proactive and do all you can to protect your mail and, ultimately, your identity. Thieves are creatures of opportunity – and if you don’t give them the opportunity, they can’t commit the crime.