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Mail Theft: What to watch for and what to do if your mail is stolen
With deliveries to more than 100 million addresses to monitor and 200 federal laws to enforce, Postal Inspectors have a big job. Mail theft could be just an inconvenience or put your credit and your identity at risk. Read on for ways to protect yourself.
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Watch for patterns. Sure, a piece of mail may get lost every now and again, but if it happens again and again, speak up. Alert the sender if you didn’t receive a check you were expecting, and call your bank or credit card company if a replacement card you ordered hasn’t shown up.
Beware of a phony change of address. Thieves are getting smarter, and one trick is to file a change of address form to get their hands on your mail. The Post Office will send a validation letter to your old and new address when a change is filed. If you did not file the change, don’t ignore the letter. Follow the instructions, and call to alert Postal Inspectors of the phony request.
Talk to your postal carrier. Know when the mail is delivered. Alert your postal carrier if you’ve noticed any strange behavior around the local mailboxes. Ask if he or she knows of any problems if your area, and inquire about a more secure set-up if he or she voices concern.
Scrutinize your mail. Don’t throw away letters from banks, credit card companies, utility companies or businesses, even those you don’t recognize, without reading them over. If you receive a bill or statement for an account you don’t recognize, call the company immediately to inquire.
Shred documents that contain identifying information a thief could use. Think account numbers, your social security number, banking details, pay stubs, and identifying information like your name and date of birth. If you’re not sure a piece of mail is sensitive, shred it. Remember, an experienced thief can use just your name and your birth date to damage your credit.
Go green. Switch to paperless billing and statements to reduce the amount of sensitive mail you receive.
Here are some more tips to protect your mail:
- Hand your mail directly to a letter carrier, or use the letter slots at your local Post Office.
- Pick up your mail regularly. Don’t leave letters in the mailbox for several days, over the weekend or even overnight, if possible. Make checking your mailbox part of your daily routine.
- Notify the Post Office if you change your address.
- Don’t send cash or sensitive information through the mail.
- Alert the Post Office if you are going out of town.
- Contact the Post Office if you don’t receive a check or other piece of valuable mail you’re expecting.
- Keep an eye out. Watch your neighborhood mailboxes for suspicious characters. Report anyone loitering or behaving strangely around your mailbox.
- If you see mail theft in progress or believe your mail was stolen, call the police, then call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 3).
If your mail is stolen, follow these steps:
Alert the Postal Inspector online or by phone at 877-876-2455 (press 3). File a police report to get the incident down on record.
Talk to your neighbors. They may not realize if their mail has been stolen too. This also puts everyone on watch.
Look for evidence. If you live in an apartment building, ask for security footage that could show the theft. If not, request cameras to deter thieves and protect you and your neighbors going forward.
Set a fraud alert. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion — and receive a notice if any inquires on your credit are taken out in the next three months.
Monitor your credit report. Scour your credit report for signs of identify theft. Obtain a free report each year at AnnualCreditReport. Check for any suspicious activity, and dispute fraudulent items.
Consider a Post Office box. Thieves are more likely to target unwatched neighborhood boxes than those inside the highly-monitored Post Office. If your mail has been stolen repeatedly, a more secure solution could be the best option.