Protecting Your Mailbox From ID Theft

Think of all the highly personal and financial information that travels via mail: bank and credit card statements, loan invoices, bills, checks, healthcare records and more. This data-rich mix is just what ID thieves are looking for, and gives them the ability to use your personal information to commit fraud and theft.

Protect yourself (and your mailbox) with these two steps:

1. Reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out more than 4 million tons of junk mail every year. Junk mail is easily stolen from your mailbox or garbage, and while it may seem like trash to you, would-be thieves want it. Better Business Bureau research also shows that the majority of ID theft occurs when the thief has direct contact with the victim’s personal information by rifling through a mailbox or trash can.

Limit your junk mail by taking action. Stop pre-screened credit offers by “opting-out” of these mailing. To opt-out of receiving pre-approved credit card offers, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com. You will be asked for personal information, including your name, address, birth date and Social Security number. This information is used only to process requests and will remain confidential.

For the purposes of this site, direct mail is divided into four categories: Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers and Other Mail Offers. You can request to start or stop receiving mail from individual companies within each category – or from an entire category at once.

You can also remove your address from “resident” and “occupant” mailing lists that offer various goods and services by contacting Valassis (formerly known as ADVO Inc.) either by phone at 1-888-241-6760 or through the “Contact Us” section of www.valassis.com.

2. Secure your mailbox and trash. Consider switching to a locking mailbox if you don’t already have one, or try using a front door mail slot instead of a mailbox. Shred or tear up any unwanted mail before throwing it away. Trashing your unwanted mail intact (especially while still in the envelope) makes it too easy for thieves to find and use your information. Also, if you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time, ask the post office or your carrier to stop your mail it doesn’t pile up.