Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in today’s world and can reap havoc with an otherwise good credit history. A friend of mine once discovered that someone had fraudulently entered a change of address on her behalf as a result of which, she wasn’t receiving her mail. She got suspicious when she noticed her credit card bills had stopped coming, but really got the message when she tried to use her card and it was rejected. After many years of heartache and some very fancy foot work, she was able to regain credit, but it wasn’t easy.
Mail can be stolen in a number of ways; someone can fraudulently redirect your mail to their address, they can simply take your mail out of your box soon after it is dropped off by the postman, or an entire postal office or postal community box can be burglarized. If you are in the habit of throwing your bills and envelopes, or documents with your address in the garbage or the recycling bin, you are contributing to the theft of your information.
Can stolen mail jeopardize your identity? You bet it can. The Pacific Business News of Honolulu, reported that stolen mail is a growing source of identity theft. Hawaii saw mail theft quadruple over a four year period. Identity crooks brazenly scour residential mail boxes and remove statements, credit cards or credit card offers, bills, bank statements and proceed to take over accounts and change addresses. When your identity is stolen and your credit cards, bank and other personal information is used, your credit is adversely affected. The problem is that you may not be aware of it until it is too late.
But this is not only a problem in Hawaii, it is becoming endemic everywhere, with devastating results for the unsuspecting victims. Cheques stolen from the mail is an act that has become rampant. Thes cheques are usually altered by shphisticated means and cashed. The information on a cheque tells the criminal a lot about the writer of the cheque; their name, address, phone number, bank account number and bank location. This is all it takes to steal one’s identity and no wonder the practice has become so rampant.
Ever since I heard about my friend’s plight, I invested in a shredder and any envelope with our family’s names and addresses are shredded. All that junk or advertising mail that comes to your door with your name printed on, offering your huge credit, don’t throw it in the garbage or recycling bin. That information could easily be lifted and someone else may have the credit you didn’t want. The only problem is that you are the one who will have to pay the price.
Stolen mail can also jeopardize your identity when someone steals your information from the mail, assumes your identity and is involved in a criminal act. They get picked up and use your name and information instead of their own. Imagine your surprise when sometime down the road, you find out that you have a criminal record that you never knew you had. Perhaps the most devastating consequences of stolen mail is when a child’s information is stolen and credit cards are opened in the child’s name. The child now has a bad credit history long before she or he is able to comprehend the damage that has been done.
Today we have to be painfully aware of the various ways in which our identity can be stolen and used for illicit purposes. Stolen mail is just one way, criminals can get into our lives, our homes, and destroy our sense of security and control. We can take back control of our finances, our privacy and security, by becoming more vigilant about the security of our personal and financial information. Ensuring our mail is delivered to a secure location, shredding personal and financial information, before throwing it into the garbage, being alert to changes in our mail delivery and checking our credit scores regularly, can go a long way toward protecting us from identity theft.