Unfortunately, there are many ways by which everyday mail poses a serious risk of identity theft and other crimes. The good news is that there are a number of practices that can minimize that threat.
Mail Risks prior to Recipient’s Control
Even though the US Postal Service received 40,000 reports of mail theft last year, they freely admit that’s only the tip of the iceberg, saying that the overwhelming majority of it is never reported. They also say that the problem of mail theft is growing rapidly due to the increased use of online shopping, and the use of bank statements, credit card statements, and pre-approved credit card offers to assume another’s identity and to carry out other forms of financial fraud.
As for the theft itself, it is fairly straightforward, with thieves physically stealing mail from the mailboxes lining suburban streets or using brute force attacks on large banks of communal mailboxes. And, while locked mailboxes keep out prying eyes and provide evidence of theft, they do little to actually keep out someone intent on gaining access.
To minimize the threat of mail theft prior to receipt, authorities advise that mail be retrieved as soon as possible after delivery, and that it never be left out overnight. And, while there are those who suggest switching to electronic delivery of bills or other potentially sensitive information, they are quick to point out that electronic delivery comes with its own risks, and that much of the sensitive information that comes in the mail is not controllable.
The Mail Risk after Recipient’s Control
It is well documented that Identity thieves search through discarded mail, particularly in trash bins or recycling containers, for things like financial statements, medical records, or other paperwork that contains personally identifiable information.
And, while it is almost impossible to catch the thieves in that act, to draw attention to the problem, the US Postal Inspection Service made big news out of nabbing a suspected identity thief rifling through a trash bin after police followed a suspicious vehicle to “a treasure trove of stolen mail.” Again, they stated that the risk was real, and the apprehension of one suspect was but a drop in the ocean.
But it’s not just the obvious stuff that is worrisome. Even what may seem innocuous on its own, in today’s world can:
- Be used to craft highly-targeted phishing attacks
- Be combined with information from other sources to commit identity theft
- Let thieves know when the house is unoccupied, including travel plans, what activities children are involved in, who has a medical condition or takes a prescription, etc.
To protect yourself from these risks, experts universally agree that mail should be destroyed. In the same breath, however, they also warn that shredding it – or tearing it – only shows the bad guys what to take, and that puzzling it back together is child’s play.
Luckily, Shred Vault has a solution.
Shred Vault Kiosks: Conveniently located around the city, mail or other sensitive documents can securely sealed and deposited for secure destruction using the same process used by many of the area’s most high-profile banks and hospitals. (Learn More)
Shred Vault On-site Shredding: When cleaning up a backlog of material, why not make an appointment for one of our Shred Vault Mobile Shredding Trucks. Our polite, screened and trained driver and our state-of-the-art equipment can shred years’ worth of old documents in minutes. (Learn More)
Either way, the important thing is that you protect yourself and your family, and Shred Vault is here to help.
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