Identity theft can be high tech, low tech or no tech.  Stealing mail from mailboxes for purposes of identity theft has been done by identity thieves for years.  Numerous times over the last ten years I have warned you about the danger of having your mail, such as credit card bills or bank statements stolen from your personal mailbox.  In addition, many people put themselves in great danger of identity theft by putting their outgoing mail in their mailbox and put up the red flag to alert the mail carrier that there is mail to be picked up.  Unfortunately, that is also an alert to identity thieves cruising the neighborhood of mail to be easily stolen.

Recently, in Tennessee Jennifer Shrum was arrested and charged with using the U.S. Postal Service’s Informed Delivery Program to learn when her targeted victims would be receiving important mail, such as credit card applications or bank statements that she would steal and use for purposes of identity theft.  In one instance she applied for multiple credit cards in the name of one of her victims and used them to spend thousands of dollars at various local stores.

The Informed Delivery Program is a free service of the U.S. Postal Service that will send you an email each morning with images of the mail you will be receiving later that day.  This service was first done on a pilot basis in 2014 in parts of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. and became available to everyone three years later.   Identity theft through the stealing of mail such as credit card statements and bank statements from your mailbox is a significant problem and this program both alerts you as to when to look for important mail, as well as let you know if such important mail has been stolen from your mailbox so you can respond more quickly. However, nothing is full proof.  A few years ago I told you about the identity theft of more than thirty-five people living in the same Miramar, Florida neighborhood caused by criminals exploiting flaws in the program.  These criminals signed up for the program in the names of their victims and were able to see when credit card statements and other mail containing personal information would be delivered so that they were alerted as to when to steal the mail from the mail boxes of their victims and gain access to their credit cards as well as sign her up for additional cards which they also exploited.  While in order to set up an Informed Delivery account, you need to answer security questions, the information necessary to answer those questions can often be readily obtained online.

TIPS

In order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft through your mailbox, you should make sure that it is securely locked so that it is not easily accessed by your friendly neighborhood identity thief and when it comes to outgoing mail, don’t put it in your mailbox for your mail carrier to pick up regardless of how convenient it may be to do so.  In fact, identity thieves have been known to steal mail from the U.S. Postal Service mailboxes found on the corners of major streets so, in order to be safe, you should mail your outgoing mail at the post office.   It may seem like this is being a bit excessive when it comes to protecting your mail, but remember, even paranoids have enemies.

The best way to avoid the problem of someone using the Informed Delivery Program to learn about your upcoming mail deliveries is to sign up for the Informed Delivery Program yourself before an identity thief does so in your name.  Here is the link to go to sign up.

https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action

It is also important to note that if you do sign up for the service, you should use a unique and complex password to prevent identity thieves from hacking your account to let them know when important mail that they can exploit for identity theft purposes will be arriving to your home.

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