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Friday, May 24, 2024

Bonanza for mail theft

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Special to the Recorder

You’ve read the number – more than 11 million victims of identity theft a year. While media attention focuses on cyber crimes, consumers need to remember that identity thieves are still taking advantage of one of the oldest ways to steal your identity – mail theft.

Because of the extensive use of the mail to commit identity theft and credit fraud, the Postal Inspection Service has become a leading agency in investigating these crimes, according to a 2009 United States Postal Service publication.

In January, employers, banks and credit card companies mail out all of their year-end documents, including W-2s, 1099 forms, credit card summaries, and brokerage statements. Additionally, on any given day, there are more than a million credit cards in the mail stream, part of the 700 million pieces of mail delivered daily.

People don’t understand that “walkers” follow mail carriers and look through your mail for any bonanza they can find. Mail thieves know the prime time is between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Others take advantage of the dark of night and/or consumers’ tendencies of not checking mailboxes each day.

Some thieves even go so far as to open the envelopes, copy the documents, then reseal your mail and place it in your box again a day later. Jane Hercules of Ezine Articles states that one-third of all identity theft began with mail theft.

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends the following suggestions:

n Get a P.O. Box at a Post Office and use this for sensitive mail. The Post Office does background checks on employees and uses surveillance equipment.

n During this critical time, have your mail held at the post office, with photo ID required for pick up. This is similar to a “vacation” hold.

n Don’t use the excuse that you always get the mail when it arrives. Postal deliveries are not always at the same time and you can’t make sure you are standing next to your box at the right moment. That 30-second window is all a thief needs.

n Keep a monthly calendar of when items arrive and if they seem delayed, call the sender to find out why. If you suspect mail theft, call the Postal Inspector’s Office immediately.

n Do not report mail theft to your local Post Master.

n Consider installing a strong locked mailbox.

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