May 4, 2013

Think Inside the Box: Protect You Mail and Your Identity

The Department of Justice states that 7 percent of all U.S. households had at least one person fall victim to identity theft in 2010. Brandon Industries, a home security provider, estimates that more than 100 million Americans are at risk of identity theft from mail fraud. But it isn't necessarily random criminals who prey on the general public. The Office of the Inspector General, in 2010, not only reported an increase in lost or stolen mail allegations, but 416 postal employees and contractors were arrested in connection with some of the accusations.

It is essential that Americans protect the mail that is delivered to their homes, while exercising common sense when sending valuables across the country. There's no way to completely guarantee the security of your vital information, but there are several safeguards that will place you ahead of the curve.

Disguise and Insure Valuables

Packages marked "fragile" will definitely be treated differently than those not marked, but perhaps not how you think. A 2010 study by Popular Mechanics found that the fragile label is more of a flag for abuse. The rather-ingenious study placed vibration sensors in packages, marked them fragile, and sent them through the three major carriers: UPS, USPS, and Federal Express. UPS kept the packages upright the most, while USPS was the most gentle (relatively) overall. But all of them dropped and threw the "fragile" boxes around several times, according to the study.

It's best to simply pack your items appropriately and not draw any extra attention to it. Though it takes an extra step, filling out a blank envelope for monthly payments is much safer than using the pre-printed envelope that tells criminals exactly what's inside. Use a larger box with extra bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts to ship fragile items, as opposed to conspicuously marking the box.

Upgrade Your Mailbox

It is far too easy for would-be criminals to steal mail, especially from boxes that are on the street, within reach of people without even getting out of their cars. The Ultimate Mailbox is a bit pricey, but especially useful for those who get US Money Reserve precious metals, E-bay auction items, and payments from customers regularly in the mail. They basically work like the blue boxes postal customers drop their outgoing mail into. Thieves would have to go through a lot of trouble to access your mail. The Curbvault Mailbox is also pricey, but will keep your mail safe and is a sleek-looking addition to your front yard. Gibraltar Mailsafes are very affordable and perfect for those who can mount their mailbox on a porch or wall of their home.

Never Send Checks

There is really no reason to send large amounts of money through the mail, especially by check. All thieves need are the numbers at the bottom of the check to make your life miserable. Virtually every retailer, bill collector, and utility provider has electronic means for individuals to make payments. Even if you don't have a credit card or checking account, a pre-paid Visa or Mastercard can be purchased at just about any grocery store.

The fewer opportunities you give criminals to steal your identity, your money, and well-being, the less chance you have of becoming a victim.