By Ralph Winn
Last year, an estimated 10 million Americans were the victims of identity theft. Although the Internet has always been linked to incidents of stolen passwords and credit card numbers, about five percent of identity theft cases start with stolen mail. Mailbox security is an important part of keeping your identity yours.
Raising a Red Flag
Mailbox security is also an essential part of protecting yourself financially. And it’s a part that many Americans take for granted. Think about it: you write a check to pay your electric bill, put it in the envelope, and place it in the mailbox. You raise the little metal flag, letting your mail carrier know that you have outgoing mail. You are also announcing to the world that you may have something interesting and personal in there. Like a thumbtack in a map, a raised mailbox flag lets thieves know where to go next.
A few numbers are all a thief needs. Your checking account number. Your social security number. A check with your name and address. It doesn’t take much. The best way to keep your outgoing mail secure is to take your mail to a post office and drop it into the box.
But I Pay All of My Bills Online!
You may be a savvy web surfer who began receiving your bills and bank statements electronically a long time ago. But think about your Aunt Ruth – the one who still has a rotary phone – she’s probably not quite ready to go paperless. Mailbox security is especially important to older people, who often end up the victims of identity theft.
It is important to exercise caution when mailing anything of a personal nature. Never leave your outgoing mail in your mailbox. It only takes one crook to ruin your life and your credit.
You May Already Be A Victim!!!!
Junk mail. The average American receives about forty pounds of the stuff every year. A nuisance? Absolutely. An appalling waste of trees and time? Check. A danger? Possibly.
Junk mail can be a real threat to mail security. Even though most of us just want to dump it in its rightful place in the garbage can, it’s important to dispose of junk mail carefully. Many identity thieves find their targets by “dumpster diving,” an unsavory – not to mention unsanitary – way of getting their hands on all of those pre-approved credit card applications.
The Paper Shredder: Your New Best Friend
The best way to make sure that your mail is secure is to shred unwanted documents. Insurance paperwork, bank statements, unsolicited credit card applications – run these items through the shredder before disposing of them. You’ll be a lot safer.
Some Helpful Hints for Mailbox Security:
•Invest in a heavy-duty locking mailbox. Most of these are built to withstand the worst – the strongest of them can withstand baseball bats, firecrackers, and rocks – and they are an effective deterrent for would-be mail thieves.
•Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on the weekend. Don’t let your mail pile up. Thieves pay attention and are more likely to steal from a mailbox that isn’t checked regularly.
•Review your credit reports and bank statements carefully. Report anything that looks suspicious.
•Beware of mail solicitations that offer you rewards. Especially if they ask for personal information like credit card or checking account numbers.
•Remember that mailbox security is everyone’s concern. Taking the attitude of “it can’t happen here” is the first step to victimization. Make sure your mail is secure, no matter where you live.
About the Author: Ralph Winn writes about Security Systems and other related topics. For more information on Home Security