Protecting Mail from Identity Theft

While criminal hackers are cracking databases and stealing millions of electronic records every year, street level identity thieves are a more insidious element of the identity theft epidemic. Thieves of this nature live in your neighborhood. In some parts of the country, local identity thieves tend to be meth heads.

Local identity thieves understand all too well that the money is in your mailbox. They simply open your mailbox and steal any mail that could provide an opportunity for identity theft.

Think about what comes in the mail. Bank, credit card, and financial statements. Utility, mobile phone, and membership statements. Pension, Social Security, and benefit statements. Employment, tax, and income statements. Checks, disbursements, and credit card offers.

These sensitive documents contain enough information for an identity thief to take over your existing accounts or open new accounts in your name. While some data is left off paper statements for privacy’s sake, they generally contain enough sensitive details for a thief to impersonate you over the phone in order to obtain even more details, enough to fill in the puzzle pieces of your identity.

Protect yourself by getting rid of paper statements. Electronic statements in your email inbox are eco-friendly and more manageable and secure than paper statements.

Get a mailbox with a lock. You can get a chain for under $60 at most hardware stores, which allow the carrier to put mail in the box, but requires a key to get mail out.

Get a P.O. box. Any sensitive mail that I can’t receive digitally goes to my P.O. box. A P.O. box is locked, and the only one with access is the postal carrier.

If you go more than a few days without receiving new mail, it may be getting stolen, so call the post office.

Pay attention to the delivery dates of all bills. You should know when to expect recurring mailings, so you’ll notice if they don’t arrive on schedule.

Have yourself removed from the Direct Marketing Association’s lists. Eliminate all unnecessary solicitation to minimize mail that creates a risk.

Opt out of preapproved credit card offers. Go to OptOutPrescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) and get removed now.

McAfee Identity Protection includes proactive identity surveillance to monitor subscribers’ credit and personal information and access to live fraud resolution agents who can help subscribers work through the process of resolving identity theft issues. For additional tips, please visit http://www.counteridentitytheft.com

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing how a person becomes an identity theft victim on CounterIdentityTheft.com (Disclosures)

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