Although online identity theft is on the rise, the old-fashioned methods still work, and bold identity thieves have no reservations about stealing your sensitive information from under your nose. Raiding mailboxes is an oft-used identity theft strategy that has stood the test of time. An experienced identity thief can use documents like bank statements and utility bills to open financial accounts in your name. When it comes to home security, keeping your mailbox safe is as critical as locking the front door at night. Here are just a few home security strategies that will keep identity thieves out of your mailbox for good.
Invest in a Locking Mailbox
If your mailbox is a standalone metal container nailed to a post or attached to an outer wall, all an identity thief needs to do in order to gain access to your sensitive information is pick up your mail while you are at work. Sensitive documents like credit card bills, bank statements, and health insurance invoices can provide a criminal with more than enough information to claim your identity and drain your accounts. Invest in a sturdy mailbox that locks-most are available for under $150-and keep it locked at all times.
Contact Your Creditors If Bills Don't Arrive
Certain bills, like utility bills, tend to arrive on or around the same day every month. If you know your billing cycle, you'll be able to keep track of which bills should arrive and when. That makes it easy to determine if a bill is missing or delayed. If you notice that a bill hasn't shown up on time, it could be the case that an identity thief has intercepted it. Call your creditor and inform them that you have not received your bill, and then confirm the date it was sent. If there is an unexplained delay, an identity thief may have taken your bill. Call your financial institution immediately and ask to speak to the fraud and identity theft department.
Hold Your Mail If You Go On Vacation
If you decide to go away for an extended period of time, it is critical that you contact your postal service and ask them to hold your mail. Experienced criminals will scout your home several days in a row to check whether or not you have picked up the mail. An overstuffed mailbox is a clear sign that you have gone away, meaning the criminals will see an opportunity to break into your home and rob you. Having the post office hold your mail (or asking a trusted neighbor to collect it) will make thieves believe you are still at home. Most petty thieves prefer fast and uncomplicated robberies, so they will skip over your house and look for a more appealing home to rob.
If All Else Fails, Get a PO Box
Signing up for a PO Box at your local Canada Post outlet is likely the best way to ensure that your mail stays secure. If you have no mailbox to steal from, identity thieves will be unable to access your sensitive documents. A PO Box typically requires a key and, as it is located in a public space, is both difficult and inconvenient to break into.
Identity theft is a quickly growing crime, and one popular way that identity thieves gain access to your information is through unprotected mail. No home security plan is complete without a plan in place to protect your mail. With a few simple precautions, though, you can keep your mail-and your identity-safe.