Studies continue to show that most identity theft is committed using paper-based information. And while much of that is based on papers stolen from your kitchen counter (usually by someone you know well), a fair portion is the result of mail theft or tampering. Here are some steps to protect your physical mail.

  • Don’t leave outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox – especially checks (which have your bank number and signature on them). Take the extra time to detour to the post office drop box.
  • Or even better, pay your bills online through your bank’s secure website.
  • Sign up for direct deposit and for electronic deposit of as many incoming checks as you can. Don’t advertise when you’ve got a check coming. An insurance company I know recently had a check forgery case based on a single claim check stolen from the victim’s mailbox.
  • Keep your eyes open for changes in patterns. If you haven’t received a bill on time, one possibility is that an ID thief changed the address and is using your account to establish his/her false identity.
  • If you’re expecting a package, track it’s progress on the carrier’s website. Make sure that it doesn’t sit unattended any longer than necessary.
  • Think about signing up for electronic statements instead of getting them through the mail. It’s cheaper the company (and ultimately for the consumer), it reduces the volume of paper to manage and, as long as your computer security is good, it can be as safe or slightly safer than paper statements.
  • If you’re going out of town, put a hold on your mail.
  • If you live in a high-crime area, consider a post office box.

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