One identity thief, who is also a skilled hacker, talked to the Huffington Post about why stealing mail remains the easiest way to obtain information.
“Mail theft is probably 80 percent of consumer fraud. I’d find people who are hard-up for money,” he said. “They’re not real criminals. Or they don’t [think] stealing out of mailboxes makes them a criminal. So I would give them $400-$500 and they’d steal me trash bags full of mail. And I’d even give them a car to do it in, usually a rental car I got with a stolen identity and never gave back. It’s just so easy with mail theft. You don’t have to be a hacker. You don’t have to talk to anybody, you don’t have to trick anybody, you know what I mean? You just open a mailbox.”
Stealing mail doesn’t take as much time as hacking through firewalls and discovering passwords, so thieves continue to do it. Security experts warn consumers to make time for identity protection even during the busy holiday season when most people are spending their days with family.
Here are some ways you can stay proactive in guarding your mail against identity theft:
- Check your credit: Order a credit report to look for any anomalies or inaccuracies. It’s important to keep your eyes open for identity theft even once you’ve taken steps to prevent it from occurring.
- Know your mailman: Talk to the person who typically delivers your mail and ask what time of day they usually come by your neighborhood. If you know their schedule, you can arrange to pick up the mail soon after it’s dropped off. This way your valuable personal information isn’t sitting in a vulnerable mailbox for hours.
- Send your mail securely: Don’t ever leave your mail out to be collected. Criminals look for the little red flag signaling that there’s material to be collected, so it’s not a good idea to send mail this way. It’s worth the extra time and effort to mail things through secure post office boxes, especially if you’re mailing a credit card application or a personal check.
- Shred your documents: Many people imagine identity thieves as glamorous cyber-criminals hacking their way effortlessly through sophisticated technology. However, more thieves are actually still going through your trash and piecing together your Social Security number from various pieces of mail. It’s crucial to shred your old bank account statements, credit cards, loan applications and identifying documents.
- Use a locking mailbox: Consider installing a locking mailbox to add extra protection for your mail and documents. This isn’t a foolproof answer to identity theft, but it can help deter the casual criminal.
Finally, you can also register for a credit monitoring service that notifies you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. This can give you much-needed peace of mind, allowing you to rest assured that you’re taking important measures to safeguard your identity.