Think for a moment about all the mail that comes and goes from your mailbox. What if it slipped into the wrong hands? What could an identity thief learn from your mail? If you receive or send mail that contains your social security number, account numbers, and other personal or sensitive information, a fraudster is only steps away from completing credit offers, draining your bank account, and ruining your credit score.
It’s an alarming subject, but it illustrates the benefit of taking some steps to improve your security:
Chances are the financial institutions you use for your banking, investments and other services offer electronic delivery of your monthly and yearly statements. And it’s a good idea to sign up. Electronic statements ensure that only you can access the statement information. When they are delivered by mail, they can be lost, stolen, or delivered to the wrong address. These documents contain information that Identity thieves will find useful in fraudulently stealing your identity —and your money.
Let’s face it, we all have bills — electric, gas, phone, cable, internet access, mobile phones- and many people receive and pay those bills by mail. By signing up for electronic billing, paying bills online through your bank’s system, or having your payments automatically withdrawn, you’ll reap many rewards. Most of all, receiving and paying bills electronically is much more secure than by mail. You’ll save money on postage and envelopes, and benefit the environment by reducing the amount of paper being used.
It’s also a good idea to eliminate paper when receiving money. Elect to have your paycheck deposited into your account with direct deposit. It’s faster and much more secure than having a check mailed to you.
Come tax time, it may be a good idea to make a list of all the documents you receive in order to properly file your tax returns. In the years that follow, be sure you are receiving all necessary documents.
Develop Good Shredding Habits
When you’re finished with a document that contains sensitive personal or financial information, be sure to shred it. There are many affordable shredders with advanced features (cross-cut, for example) that will fit nicely in your home or office. Professional paper shredding services are also available.
Carefully Consider Outgoing Mail
Think about what you’re sending before your send it. Does it contain personal and/or financial information? If so, it’s wise to send mail from a post office or a designated postal drop-box. Identity thieves raid mailboxes looking for information that they can use to steal your identity.
Perhaps a PO Box?
There is a cost involved, but if you’re concerned about identity theft, you may want to consider a Post Office Box. These are available through your local post office, or you can visit with USPS website.
Keep An Eye On Your Accounts…
Knowing what’s going on with your accounts is crucial to identifying fraudulent activity before it gets out of control. Utilize your financial institutions’ websites on a regular basis to ensure that unauthorized transactions are not emptying your account or ruining your credit.
…and Your Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies separately. Either way, you can request these reports through www.AnnualCreditReport.com.