After I recently wrote about how you might avoid identity theft and other scams, I heard, as I often do, from many readers. Mike Little is one person who wrote in. He works for Postal Vault, a firm that makes high-security mailboxes -- some weighing more than 80 pounds. You may not be looking for Fort-Knox-like security for your mail, but Mike offered something from which we can all benefit: tips on preventing mail theft and a list of what postal criminals are looking for.
Here are some things you can do to prevent mail theft:
- Take outgoing mail directly to the post office. Raised red flags on mailboxes are advertisements to mail thieves.
- Collect mail promptly after delivery, if you can. Perhaps look into getting a locking mailbox.
- If you're going on vacation, have the post office hold your mail -- there's a simple form to fill out for this service.
- Think twice before having someone collect your mail. Your sweet neighbor may be an identity thief -- you never know.
- Be sure the mailbox you drop your mail into is actually a mailbox. One popular scam of thieves is to park fake mailboxes in a busy area for a few hours, to collect mail from unsuspecting dupes (like you or me).
- Report any suspicious activity or possibly stolen mail to your post office ASAP.
Here are the kinds of things dastardly types are looking for in your mail -- they're the kinds of things you might want to shred before discarding (ideally with a cross-cut shredder):
- Cash and change (for obvious reasons)
- Outgoing checks (they can be chemically washed and rewritten)
- Incoming new checks (thieves recognize the shape of the box)
- Greeting cards (they often have cash or checks in them)
- Utility bills (the info in these can be used to open fraudulent accounts in your name)
- Bank statements (the info in these can be used to steal from your account)
- Credit card statements (same as above)
- Credit card offers (these may be used to open an account in your name and stick you with the bill)
You can monitor whether anyone is messing with your credit cards (and thereby your credit report and credit score) by getting a copy of your credit report. Right now we're offering a special deal on reports from all three agencies -- check it out.
You may also find some tips on avoiding credit fraud at the websites of major credit card issuers such as American Express
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.