Flagging Yourself for Identity Theft
You wouldn’t think to place sensitive personal information in an unsecured public place. If you did so, the last thing you would want to do is bring attention to the fact that the information was there. Yet that’s what many people do each day when they place their outgoing mail in the mailbox and raise the little red flag.
Outgoing mail is often more sensitive than incoming mail. In addition to account information, outgoing bills usually contain a check as well. With the routing and account number information provided on every check, stealing one outgoing bill can give an identity thief a significant amount of information about you. Credit card bills obviously provide even more information.
There are a number of things that you can do to protect your mail. First, consider paying your bills online. With threats like the one descried in this post, you may find that online transactions are much safer than real-world ones. Plus, paying online leaves an electronic record of the transaction, something that paying by mail does not do.
Second, you can use a post office or USPS mailbox to drop off your outgoing mail. Your bills will drop securely into the box in either case, away from the prying hands of a potential thief.
Third, try to reduce the number of bills that you have. If you have multiple credit cards, each one will have another bill, and subsequently another source of potential theft. You can use a P2P loan from Lending Club to consolidate your debt and reduce the number of bills that you send and receive each month, and save yourself a lot of money in addition to enjoying a monthly payment amount that remains constant.
Lastly, you may want to use a PO Box or mailbox service instead of having a mailbox at your house. That’s less convenient and will cost a nominal fee, but if it offers protection from identity theft then it may be worth it. Because incoming mail is also a target for thieves, using such a service helps to protect you. I use a mailbox service (from the UPS Store) versus a PO Box so that packages can be accepted there as well. This type of service is also more convenient since shippers will not deliver to a PO Box.
It’s sad to think that something as seemingly benign as sending out a bill could lead you down the path towards identity theft. It’s often the overlooked aspects of our lives that are the most easily exploited. Protect your mail, both incoming and outgoing, and you’ll be protecting your identity at the same time.
Saturday, December 15th, 2007 at 1:03 pm