idtheftquiz.org Article copyright 2012
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Mailbox ID theft can be traced as the source of information in nearly .5 million cases of stolen identity every year. But if your mailbox is anything like mine – and it probably is – that shouldn’t come as any big surprise. On any given morning you’re likely to find the red flag up meaning my mailbox contains a check and a statement stub with my account number on it. Check back in the afternoon, and there are new bills (with some blank checks to encourage me to go further in debt), and a bunch of pre-approved credit card offers. Could it be any easier to steal someone identity?
Most identity thieves aren’t evil computer geniuses lurking around in cyberspace. They’re that that nice-looking guy with the backpack you saw walking his dog yesterday morning. Thousands of people just like that guy are cleaning out mailboxes all over the world, and then selling their harvest to organized crime outfits. Those are the guys who are selling entire lists of identities on the black market to the guy who’s going to use your account information to go to Tahiti carrying matched Louis Vuitton luggage. That’s how mailbox ID theft works.
But what about the news stories you hear all the time about the zillions of people whose Social Security numbers, names and credit card account numbers were lost to hackers? And what’s up with those articles that advise you to protect yourself from identity theft by paying your bills online? Say what?
Even the United States Postal Service admits that most identity theft originates at your mailbox, but it’s never going to make the news splash that the big data breaches do. Mailbox ID theft would only be news if it happened all at once, and all in one place. News anchors are not going to lead the 6:00 news with “A single residential mailbox was robbed in Peoria yesterday, leading Peoria law enforcement to wonder if Norm and Betty Smith may have been targeted by identity thieves.” I’ll wash Katie Couric’s car if it ever happens.
Avoiding mailbox ID theft
There are a lot of things you can do to prevent becoming Norm and Betty.
- Quit leaving your payments in the mailbox with the red flag up. Look around tomorrow morning, and I’ll bet you pass at least one mail collection box or even a post office on your way to work.
- Now that you know where the closest post office is, consider getting a mailbox there.
- Don’t let your mail pile up overnight. If you’re going out of town, call the post office and tell them to hold it for you till you get back.
- Quit writing checks all together. Go paperless. Receive bills and pay them bills online. You’ll be protecting yourself from mailbox ID theft and saving a tree in the process.
- Get a locking mailbox. You still don’t want to leave your outgoing mail in it, but anything that’s delivered to you will be secure.
(And about that nice looking guy with the dog: Now that you know more about mailbox ID theft, don’t you kind of figure he bought the dog using somebody else’s credit?)
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