Identity Thieves Target Mailboxes

Nothing is sacred to identity thieves -- not even the U.S. mail. This time of year your mailbox is brimming with valuable financial information crooks can use to commit credit fraud... and worse.

Feb 1, 2014 at 7:00AM

Identity theft is big business, and nothing is sacred to those awful identity thieves -- not even the U.S. mail. They try to trap you via email come-ons and they might fraudulently charge things to your credit cards, and they may even be lurking at your mailbox.

There are always goodies to be found in your mail, such as financial account statements, but this time of year is especially tempting.

That's because your W-2 form and 1099 forms and other important documents are arriving in time for your tax-return preparation, and they often contain valuable personal information, such as your Social Security number, your earnings, your various account balances, and, importantly, where you do your banking and investing.

Think about it. Clearly, a Social Security number is extremely valuable. But if someone is going to pretend to be you, it can help them immensely to have other details -- either so that they know what accounts to tackle, or in order to better impersonate you. They'll know what bank or brokerage to take your Social Security number to, for example, as they try to get at your money. Or they may be able to apply for credit in your name with some of this information. The government has estimated that about 1 in 14 Americans aged 16 and up have been identity-theft targets or victims.

What to do
Fortunately, you're not completely at their mercy. There are some steps you can take to minimize chances of identity theft or other headaches. For maximum security, deny access to your mailbox. You can get one with a lock, or perhaps rent a box at your local post office.

If you've moved in the past year, make sure that the financial institutions serving you have your new address and file a change of address form with the post office, too.

Stay on top of your financial documents. Make a list of all your accounts and the forms that you're expecting to receive. Most will be arriving in February, but some might arrive later, and even ones that arrive early might be followed by a corrected version later. Check them off as they arrive, and contact any institutions whose documents have not arrived. Some banks or brokerages might just be running late, or a piece of mail may have innocently gotten lost en route to you, or perhaps it was intercepted by a scammer. Keep an eye on any accounts where you have any suspicion of foul play.

Keep in mind
Developing good habits with financial forms can not only foil criminals, but it can make your life easier in other ways. For example, know that the IRS gets the information on your 1099 forms, too. So if you don't report income from one of them, which is easy to do if a form never arrived or got misplaced, Uncle Sam might think you're trying to pull a fast one. And if you spot errors on any forms, look into getting them fixed as soon as possible.

And finally, know that you're not alone. The IRS itself doesn't like identity theft (many tax refunds are stolen by identity theft) and has proposed having our tax identification numbers (such as Social Security numbers) truncated on some tax-related forms. Stay tuned for more progress in the fight against identity theft.

Speaking of Theft, Want to Rob Wall Street?
Identity theft is illegal, but it's perfectly legal to find and invest in groundbreaking companies that go on to dominate multibillion-dollar industries -- before Wall Street has a chance to pile in. Our analysts have done it before with the likes of Amazon and Netflix. And now they think they've done it again with three stock picks that they believe could generate the same type of phenomenal returns. They've revealed these picks in a new free report that you can download by clicking here now.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers