The mail contains some of the most sensitive information that you can have: your name, address, contact information, bank account number and routing number on mailed checks, financial statements and much more. Despite this vulnerability, unlocked mailboxes and easily-opened paper envelopes leave mail especially vulnerable to thieves.
Criminals can use the information contained in your mail to help piece together the data needed to steal your identity. Make sure to take steps to help protect your mail from identity theft.
1. Update Your Addresses
When you move, make sure to change your address with the post office and have your mail forwarded to your new address. Otherwise, your unread mail could be piling up in an old mailbox or getting opened by the wrong people.
Make sure all the businesses you work with – including financial institutions, utility companies, credit card companies and more – all have your current address. It’s a good idea to run through this exercise the next time you pay your bills or check your accounts online.
2. Lock Your Mailbox
One of the best ways to keep people out of your mail is to lock your mailbox.
Alternatively, you could rent a P.O. box with your local post office for a monthly fee. These lockboxes are locked and secure inside the post office. They keep your home address private and they can be accessed 24/7 in some locations.
3. Shred Your Mail
Physical documents can be taken from the trash and used to commit identity theft, so don’t just throw away unwanted mail. Invest in a paper shredder, and shred anything that may contain personal information. While paper shredders are affordable, at a minimum you can hand shred your documents if you don’t want to make that purchase.
Check out our tips on protecting your paper documents from identity theft.
4. Secure Your Outgoing Mail
Your incoming mail isn’t the only thing vulnerable to identity theft. Your outgoing mail can also be stolen and used to commit fraud, especially if you’re mailing a paper check with bank and routing information or a paper application containing personal data. Consider taking your outgoing mail directly to the post office, secure post office mailbox or handing it directly to your mail carrier.
5. Go Paperless
Whenever you can, switch your mail to a paperless option. Most companies let you easily switch to paperless bills and monthly statements and may even give you a small discount for doing so. Cutting down on paper helps reduce clutter and eliminates the possibility of mail fraud.