My grandmother called me about a week ago and asked me if I had received the birthday card that she had sent. I told her I hadn’t and she became immediately concerned that someone had stolen the card from my mailbox to get the Best Buy gift card that she had sent with it. She then called back and asked, “Your address is still 88 Spring St, correct?” I told her that she had the right address (after I made her verify that she was in fact my grandmother – she laughed and so I knew it had to be her).
Fortunately, the card was sent back to her because she had neglected to place a stamp on the envelope, but for a moment I was concerned that I had been the victim of mail theft, not only because someone else was potentially spending the gift card my grandmother had sent me, but because if someone was able to steal my card sent in the mail, then there was a strong possibility that the same thief could steal a letter containing private information pertaining to my credit card, bank account or even mail that contained my social security number.
Although the experience was a false alarm, it made me think about how important it is to protect my mail from possible theft, and in doing so, prevent identity theft from becoming a reality.
According to FiscalGeek.com, in 2005 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took a survey that showed over 8.3 million adults were victims of identity theft. Last year, the FTC reported that 9.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft and that many cases were directly related in some way to stolen mail. In response to the increasing threat, the U.S. postal service has teamed up with USPS officials to create rock solid strategies that will hopefully deter thieves from stealing mail in the future. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of mail theft:
To prevent a thief from stealing credit card information, bank account information, or other sensitive information that you don’t want to share, you should either drop your letter or package into a certified United States Postal Service (USPS) dropbox, or personally hand the package or letter to a postal worker at a post office. Never leave a letter or package in your mailbox with the flag up.
The most secure option (next to making sure you’re always outside when the postal worker arrives to deliver your mail) is to get a post office box or a dedicated mail box at UPS, Mailboxes Etc., or another alternative mailing store and have all of your mail delivered there. This strategy might not be the most convenient option, but it’s a good one for ensuring that your mail will be secure until you are able to pick it up.
When You’re On Vacation
Whether you receive mail at home or at the post office, FiscalGeek.com and the USPS both agree that it is very important to have someone you trust pick up your mail and hold onto it until you return from your vacation. Letting your mail pile up in your absence is risky and also sends an invitation to robbers that your house is empty and an easy target for burglary – It’s asking for double trouble!
After I did the research and collected these helpful ideas, I passed the information along to my grandmother. She said that she’s been passing the tips on to her friends. By using these strategies and passing the information on to others, you can help prevent criminals from committing identity theft.