January 14, 2014

Mail Theft

Thieves target mail.
Back in 2011, when Security Checks Matter was starting out, I posted in our four part series on identity theft about protecting your mail. When protecting yourself from identity theft, people do not place much thought into protecting their mail. With so many stories circulating about data breaches, social media dangers, and cyber criminals, you wouldn't think identity thieves would still bother with something so low tech. Recent news stories may have you think otherwise.
Late November 2013, Redmond, Washington police investigate a rash of mail theft occurring in the Redmond and Woodinville areas. Thieves are taking any mail that is of value and discarding on the side of the road unwanted items.  The police have also received reports of people following UPS delivery trucks around to grab packages left on doorsteps.
In Howard County, Maryland, the police and US Postal Inspection Service warn residents to take precautions with their outgoing mail. This comes after investigating 40 different cases of thieves stealing outgoing mail containing checks. The thieves hit unsecure home mailboxes with its red flag up indicating mail pick-up.
During the same month Colorado Springs, Colorado police arrested two people in connection with mail theft from over 60 people around the Briargate and Rockrimmon neighborhoods. From the suspects' vehicle, police recovered driver's licenses, medications, and debit cards, which are all suspected to have been obtained from stolen mail.
The victims from these mail theft cases are concerned with identity theft, and rightfully so. Most identity theft starts with stolen mail. Think about how much of your sensitive information goes through the mail, such as credit card statements, bank statements, new checks, credit card offers. Once you start looking at it from that angle, you can easily see how mail is a lucrative target. 
Here are some security suggestions I recommend to protect yourself from mail theft.

Reduce your risk by reducing the amount of mail with sensitive information by: 
  • opting out of pre-screening credit offers , which will drastically reduce the amount of credit offers in your mailbox.
  • opting for electronic statements in lieu of paper copies mailed to you.
  • having you pick up new checkbooks up at the bank
Drop off outgoing mail in an official Postal Service collection box or directly at the Post Office instead of placing it in your home mailbox unsecured.
Don't go with a traditional mailbox. Opt for a mailbox that locks or use a PO Box.
When selecting shipping options for packages, select one that requires you to sign for delivery, so your package will not be left at the your front door to potentially be picked up by somebody with sticky fingers.
Learn who your neighbors are and have a trusted neighbor sign for your packages.

Graf, H. (25 November 2013). Redmond Police investigate rash of mail thefts.  King 5 News. Retrieved from http://www.king5.com/news/local/Redmond-Police-investigate-rash-of-mail-thefts-233415141.html 
My Fox DC (22 November 2013). Howard County Police investigating mail theft cases. MyFoxdc.com. Retrieved from http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/24046667/howard-county-police-investigating-mail-theft-cases#axzz2mLVNceWw
The Gazette (1 December 2013). Police: More than 60 Colorado Springs residents victims of mail theft. The Gazette. Retrieved from http://gazette.com/police-more-than-60-colorado-springs-residents-victims-of-mail-theft/article/1510280#BTic4GuiRCI6Hhqy.01 
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  1. It's even more tempting for thieves when the mail is in a box.

    1. Thieves are mainly opportunistic and will go after the unsecured items. People should look at ways in securing their mail and packages. They don't need to expensive methods either. Thanks for stopping by and reading.