Why should I have a locked mailbox? What do you tell people about yourself on the internet? Do you shred your mail?

A couple weeks ago one of our local TV stations did a news story on mail theft and offered this test to see if you are at risk of identity theft.

No matter where you live identity theft is the fastest growing crime worldwide. It is estimated by 2003 that 11.8 million Americans were victims of identity theft, shockingly that is 1 in 20 people.  

Since a two or three minute news blip doesn’t do this important subject justice or cover other areas on how to protect yourself in general; I thought I would expand on the subject further because there are things you may want to know… 

How to protect yourself from identity theft:

Safeguard your wallet and purse.

Try not to flash your cash no matter where you are, whether on vacation or at home. You never know who maybe watching you.  Even professional thieves and pickpockets have been known to wear business attire to fit into a crowd. I’m always amazed when I see men counting a wad of money in a public place or pulling out a big wad of cash out of their wallets.  Perhaps, they think they are safe in their environment? I know someone who was mugged in a swanky hotel washroom near a banquet hall where a wedding reception was taking place.    

Store your personal information in a secure location.  

Are you a clutter bug?  Do you carry do too much personal information in your wallet or purse?  Do you leave important papers, pin numbers, etc. laying around at home, just thrown on top of a table or in a dresser drawer?  Do you know during a home break in that thieves head to the bedroom first? Try to store personal information in a secure place in your home, a place that would not be obvious to a thief if you ever had a break in.

Safeguard your post mail.

Is your mailbox locked?  If not, invest in a new mailbox with a lock on it.  Mail theft is rampant and it is just one of many ways thieves can steal your identity. Even if you have a locked mailbox already make sure you pick up your mail on a daily basis.  I lived in a condo building where some people didn’t pick up their mail for days or weeks at a time, until our mailbox got broken into, then everyone became more vigilant after their mail was stolen. 

Mailing personal letters.

Unfortunately, thieves also steal mail out of regular postal mailboxes too.  If you are mailing personal information by post, sending greeting cards with gift certificates in them, etc. make sure you are not dumping the letters in the mailbox overnight, on the weekend or after the mail pick up times.  Sometimes you are better off mailing important letters directly at your local post office instead.

Safeguard yourself on the internet.

Do make purchases on the internet with a separate credit card or do you use your main credit card that offers thousands of dollars of available credit on it?  If you purchase items on the internet you should use a separate credit card with a lower credit limit on it for security reasons. Many websites have gotten hacked into and personal credit card information for identity theft purposes has been stolen in this manner. 

Online banking, online stock trading, etc.  Although convenient and many companies claim their systems are secure, hackers and fraud still occurs.  Online accounts with large cash positions can be at risk. 

Are you a website/blog owner?  Do you have a listed telephone number?  Be careful what kind of information you reveal about yourself on your blog or website. Telling your bloggers you are going on vacation, away for a few days, etc., can expose you mail theft, a home break in, etc.

If you use facebook or my space be careful what personal information you reveal on these sites too. The same holds true if you are a blogger using your real name, revealing personal information and you have a listed telephone number too.

Select intricate passwords to protect yourself on the internet in general.  Try not to use simple personal passwords like your telephone number, your mothers maiden name, etc. 

Interac, ATM’s, debit cards. 

Never tell anyone your pin code or write it down on the back of your card. Cover your hand over your other hand or block another person’s view when entering your pin code as you never know who can be watching you entering your pin number.  

Shred all personal information.

Credit card applications, envelopes with your name and address on them, etc., etc.  It pays to invest in a good shredder.  The shredders that shred paper into dust like particles are best.  Cross cut is okay, depending on how big the shredding strips are.  Remember the smaller the shred the harder the information would be to put back together again. Strip shredders are no longer recommended because information can be put back together quite quickly.  Sifting through dumpsters, paper recycling bins and garbage cans are ways identity thieves can gather information on you.

Protect your Social Insurance number/Social Security number and birth certificate.  

Are you caring these items around in your purse or wallet?  This is not recommended because if you ever lost your purse/wallet or had your purse/wallet stolen an identity thief would have all the information they need to become you really fast.

Pre-approved credit card applications.

Rather than just shredding these pre-approved credit card applications when they arrive by mail, call the company and request to be removed off their mailing list completely.  Pre-approved credit card applications are what identity thieves look for.

Check your credit report.

Usually for a small fee or for free you can you check your credit report.  It is recommended you check your credit report annually.  This will allow you to see anyone who is accessing your credit information and get on top of anything unusual like a family member taking out a credit card under your name without you knowing, etc., etc.

Make sure your bills show up when they are suppose to.

Pay attention that your credit card bills are showing up on a regular basis.  If a credit card bill doesn’t show up one month, get on top of it right away, as the first thing identity thieves do is have your bills redirected to another address.

Envelopes that arrive open, damaged or look like they have been resealed.

Not all identity thieves steal mail, some open mail and write down information on you instead.  If your mail is arriving opened, damaged or the envelopes look like they have been resealed this can be a sign of an identity thief at work.

Remember…

If you have an odd charge on paypal, a credit card, debit card, etc. get on top of it right away. Sometimes identity thieves will test an account out by charging seventy five cents or a dollar or two before proceeding with more charges.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Why should I have a locked mailbox? What do you tell people about … | Online Banking Guide
  2. coconews
    Jun 23, 2008 @ 22:31:54

    Hi, everyone.

    Sorry, I didn’t have time to post for quite awhile. We had to move and are in shambles. Our internet was so slow here that I was nodding off waiting for pages to down load. We now have that problem fixed and I’m slightly awake enough to post a new thread finally.

    New threads might be irregular for awhile until we get more organized and I’m not so tired.

    Thanks for your patience.

  3. Tommie
    Jun 25, 2008 @ 09:03:15

    Great advice. I have a locked mailbox and a paper shredder. I have gotten in the habit of shredding anything that has my name on it.

  4. E. Bokor
    Jul 20, 2008 @ 13:33:16

    Hello,

    We have developed a mail box locking system which can be applied to any existing rural and residential mail boxes. We can convert almost any mailbox into a secure mail box which can only be opened by your letter carries and you. We are looking to set up individuals on a individual State level to convert existing customers mail boxes to secure mail boxes. Interested individuals can contact us by email at Diamonds@Glitzz.com

  5. Trackback: What do I need to know about gift cards and gift certificates? Are there gift card scams? Is it safe to buy gift cards second hand? « Things you may want to know
  6. personal shredders
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 23:53:43

    This blog Is very informative , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog . It helped me with ocean of knowledge so I really belive you will do much better in the future . Good job web master .

  7. coconews
    Nov 27, 2008 @ 09:24:55

    Thank you.

    It is nice to know that you appreciate all the work that goes into this blog and that you find the information helpful.

  8. Erin
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 20:09:14

    This is great advice! A security mailbox is an important investment. These types of mailboxes can be found online at MailboxWorks.

  9. christopher
    Oct 01, 2009 @ 15:28:27

    Great article! Your blog is filled with sound advice.

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